The Emperor’s New Kilt
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 24–Sat 26 Apr
It’s hard to know who to praise most for this clever, funny and engaging show. There is not a single weak link to be found. The intelligent script blends humour, pathos and insightful comment. The acting carries out comic timing and human tenderness with equal aplomb, while the colourful fabric set is unique and inspired. Throw in a few catchy wee songs and some panto-style asides, and you’ve got a show that appeals across the generations.
Three children holidaying in the West Highlands of Scotland imagine a fictitious island called Kiltie. There, the selfish Laird owns everything, from the grass to the mountains, forcing his villagers to live in poverty. When he demands a new kilt for his birthday, two conmen ‘fi the big city’ set about making him a kilt ‘the like of which has never been seen’. Only a young girl has the strength of character to point out that the Laird’s birthday suit is, in fact, just that.
Taking Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and giving it a Scottish twist works beautifully. Wee Stories and the National Theatre of Scotland have produced a show that informs without patronising and suggests a way of thinking without ramming it down our throats. Despite regularly switching characters, the actors sidestep any confusion with clear, explanatory dialogue.
Most importantly of all, The Emperor’s New Kilt entertains from start to finish, eliciting laughs from grannies, school children and everyone inbetween. A show that’s proud of Scotland and that Scotland can be proud of.