The Emperor’s New Kilt
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 12–Sat 19 Apr, then touring
When Hans Christian Andersen first penned The Emperor’s New Clothes in 1837, he was issuing a veiled attack on the excesses of the Danish church. Many years later, children’s theatre company, Wee Stories has an equally potent comment to make. ‘We feel that people not going along with the crowd and having to use their own thinking is really important,’ says co-writer/director, Iain Johnstone, ‘and that’s really the main reason we wanted to do this story.’
Set on a small island off the West Coast of Scotland, The Emperor’s New Kilt takes Andersen’s original tale and gives it a lick of tartan. The eponymous royal leader becomes the ‘Laird of Kiltie’, a tyrannical landowner obsessed with kilts. Having employed two rogue kilt makers, Messrs Harris and Tweed to make him a birthday kilt, it takes a small child to point out he’s actually wearing nothing at all.
In fact, there’s more material on the backdrop than on the Laird’s backside. The unique set, four months in the making, uses pieces of fabric to depict the sky, sea, mountains, houses and the Laird’s castle. A co-production between Wee Stories and the National Theatre of Scotland, this musical comedy has a target audience of just about anyone.
‘We love playing to a mixed generational audience, because you get that shared experience,’ says Johnstone. ‘Kids see their parents or grandparents laughing and enjoying it, and we see everyone across the ages having a good time together – so everyone’s a winner really.’