The Ugly Duckling (4 stars)

Catherine Wheels 2012 panto is witty, inventive and charming

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The Ugly Duckling

You start noticing the yellow ducks on the tables in the bar. They follow you down the corridor and are projected on the wall as you enter the theatre. At first you think they’re cute, but when you meet them again in this Catherine Wheels/Arches co-production for younger children, you start to have your doubts.

It becomes clear these six freshly hatched siblings are nothing but high-pitched bullies, showing the worst kind of pack mentality to a big-boned brother who dares to be different. In Andy Manley’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, this Ugly Duckling doesn’t simply want to swim and eat like the others; he wants to express himself in all his swan-like glory.

As far as the children are concerned, they’re watching an epic journey towards self-realisation as Laurie Brown’s Terry the Ugly Duckling ventures from countryside to city and back again. For the adults, well versed in a disco soundtrack that culminates in a blast of Go West, this is nothing short of a plea for sexual equality. It’s witty, inventive and charming to boot.

Arches, Glasgow, until Sun 30 Dec

The Ugly Duckling

The Arches and Catherine Wheels present a discotastic take on Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the unhappy duckling who grows into a beautiful swan. Ages 3+.

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