Better than Peppa

Oyster Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz at Walkerburn. From left: Tin Man (Aishling Bradford); Scarecrow (Arran Houston); Cowardly Lion (Ryan Cochrane); Elvis (Sean Tennant); Dorothy (Rose Moncur); The Wizard (Angus Wolfe Murray) and Aunt Em (Alistair Moody).
Oyster Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz at Walkerburn. From left: Tin Man (Aishling Bradford); Scarecrow (Arran Houston); Cowardly Lion (Ryan Cochrane); Elvis (Sean Tennant); Dorothy (Rose Moncur); The Wizard (Angus Wolfe Murray) and Aunt Em (Alistair Moody).

I’m fully of the opinion that the true test of any panto is that it can win over a two-year-old and keep an adult happy at the same time.

In our grand-daughter Olivia’s case, the only things that have held her attention for more than three and a half minutes are Peppa Pig, homemade playdough and ponies.

So the fact that she was rapt from start to finish at Walkerburn Village Hall on Saturday afternoon – and there were two grinning adults and a thrilled 11-year-old in our party – says volumes about Oyster Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

Director Sue Tickner is well known for her work at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, but with the brilliant young Oyster Theatre cast, she is certainly culturing some wonderful pearls.

Where do we start? Well, it’s hard not to single out young Arran Houston ... his portrayal of the Scarecrow was simply stunning. Pitch-perfect in his solo, If I Only Had A Brain, he showed impeccable comic timing and was obviously enjoying every minute. He is definitely a star for the future.

His shiny Yellow Brick Road buddy Aishling Bradford made a fantastic Tin Man, her voice coming out clear and loud in her solo, If I Only Had A Heart.

And bundle of fun Ryan Cochrane, one of the stars of last year’s production of Snow White, put in another stellar performance as the lovable Cowardly Lion.

That brings us nicely to Dorothy, played by Rose Moncur. Opening the show with a sugar-sweet execution of the legendary hit, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, she absolutely refused to show any sign of nerves throughout and sparkled more than her fabulous ruby slippers.

The olbligatory Panto Dame was effortlessly played by Alistair Moody, who took the fact that, in a break from tradition, Aunt Em had been taken to Oz as well as Dorothy, in his stride. His lines and asides were hilariously delivered.

Giving rise to the multiverse theory – anything is possible when there are infinite dimensions – Elvis turns up in Oz as well. Sean Tennant wore the jumpsuit and sideburns like a true King and had enough hip action to please Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood.

Skye Houston and Abbie Nisbet were a great double act as the good witches Glinda and Letitia, while Olivia certainly did not like Sandie Wilson’s wicked witch Olga, which probably means she was doing her job just right. Every sneer, every cackle was beautifully timed.

Taking two roles this year was former Southern Reporter film critic Angus Wolfe Murray. Towering over the rest of the cast, at least in height, his Doctor and Wizard roles were played with not one ounce less eccentricity and wonderfulness than we have come to expect.

A nod has to be given to young Stuart Mitchell as the Gatekeeper, whose few lines were burst out with bounding enthusiasm – and those eyebrows!

Harry Wilson’s Chamberlain and Greg Zokas’ Woodsman were each played to perfection, while the following made a superb job of remembering whether they were playing a Munchkin, a citizen of Oz, a flying monkey or a bat: Leo Mills, Harris Houston, Jura Houston, Kayleigh Zokas, Reece Hunter, Tiegan Hunter and Summer Spence – they played them all.

With producer Kinta Lindsay overseeing matters and Borders guitar legend Frank Usher looking after the music and lights, it’s no wonder it’s a great show.

And as for Olivia, she may not be too upset that there isn’t a pony in her stocking, as long as she gets to go again next year.