Young gangsters fire up an Eastgate treat

Yet again, Tweed Theatre presents another sell-out at the Eastgate in Peebles and serves up a treat with their latest offering, Bugsy Malone.

It was family theatre at its best and, with that in mind, I went along with the whole family, including my niece of 8 and my nephew, aged 10.

With a cast of 30, all aged between 8 and 13, it was a massive undertaking by producer, Katharine Mathison and director, Tim Wilcock, and no mean feat for all involved, with most of the cast playing up to five different characters.

For those that don’t know, it is a musical about gangsters, loosely based on the exploits of hoodlums like Al Capone and Bugs Moran, and Tweed Theatre told it effortlessly.

The cast had perfected their American accents and held them throughout. The accompaniment was provided by musicians, who were on stage throughout and did a great job. And the backstage crew had an equally demanding job – with almost 30 set changes and even more costume changes, no-one got off lightly. Even the prompt, perched at the edge of the audience, had her own small speaking part, a good thing, as the kids did so well that she was redundant as a prompt.

I was amazed by the performance itself and how well it was put together with such a young cast. And it provided plenty of laughs. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been laughing when people got ‘splurged’, although it’s hard not to when scenes of gangland violence are played out with mountains of silly string and custard pies!

With such a huge cast, it’s impossible to comment on everyone’s performance, suffice to say that they all did a great job. However, I do have to mention Finlay Sinclair who played Bugsy Malone, who was on stage for most of the action and had a huge amount of dialogue to learn, all delivered in a great American accent. Dominic Davies as Fat Sam played the typical American gangster and carried it off in a suave and convincing way. Elise Reid as Blousey and Olivia Napier as Tallulah gave great performances, especially during their solo singing numbers. And one of the youngest members of the cast, Neve Reed, is surely destined for the West End.

A pet hate when I go to the theatre is latecomers. What makes it more difficult in the Eastgate is that latecomers have to walk across the front of the stage to get to their seats. The first number after the interval involved Olivia Napier, who played Tallulah, singing whilst interacting with the audience in the first few rows. The way in which she coped with the flurry of latecomers shuffling past her, not to mention a slight hiccup in the live music, was something which would have distracted the most professional actress, but not Olivia. She sang on and gave a great performance.

It was a really enjoyable show and it had a great reaction from the audience.