Review – The Singing Kettle: Fairytale Castle

Feb 18 2013 | By More

* * * *    Cilla and Artie’s last show

Festival Theatre
By Thom Dibdin

An era ended at the Festival Theatre on Sunday afternoon, when veteran children’s performers Cilla and Artie took the lid from their last kettle and went off into the sunset after 30 years leading the company they formed back in 1982.

Cilla and Artie step off into the sunset at the end of their final performance in the Singing Kettle. Photo © Thom Dibdin

While the Singing Kettle shows will continue, Cilla and Artie are taking themselves backstage. So it was an emotional affair for an audience which had come from as far as Aberdeen to say farewell, with home-made banners and bespoke “farewell tour” T-Shirts.

Proof that those who were fans in childhood have continued to be in adulthood – possibly using their own children as an excuse – came with the birthday shout-outs which, for once, included as many adult fans as children.

There were emotions on stage too. Decked out as the Mad Hatter for this Fairytale Castle show, Artie Trezise revealed that he and Cilla Fisher had sung their trademark ditty: “Spout, Handle, Lid of Metal, what’s inside the singing kettle?” over 46,000 times since they started the show.

And when it came to here turn to lead the chorus Cilla, in her full-on pink fairy outfit, spun the kettle round with a real vehemence. She was also visibly moved at times, with a genuine note of regret as she thanked all the parents for letting their children come up on stage.

It’s one of the highlights of every show, when a half dozen or so wee ones are brought up onto the stage to dress up in appropriate outfits and perform a little skipping dance around the stage. Like many elements of the show, it owes much to pantomime for its inspiration.

Indeed, in most respects this was just another classic Singing Kettle show.

Long before the house opened the queue was snaking away from the merchandise stall in the foyer. And when it did, those in the know headed in to their seats as soon as possible to play at bouncing the huge balloons which are floated above the audience at the start of every show.

Old favourites

Once under way, the formula is simple – brightly coloured kettles are discovered around the set and, on opening, each provides a clue to a song. Many of the songs are are old favourites, but even more are written by Cilla. She has penned over 260 originals for the show over the last three decades and arranged a fair few more.

Lewis, Eva and Millie came prepared for Cilla and Artie's final performance in the Singing Kettle. Photo © Thom Dibdin

Lewis, Eva and Millie came prepared for Cilla and Artie’s final performance in the Singing Kettle. Photo © Thom Dibdin

Fairytale Castle is not the most elaborate of the company’s recent tours. But in some ways, it is all the better for that. The cut-out castle is a blank canvas against which Cilla, Artie and “new boy” Kevin (he first worked on the show in 1992 and became a regular presenter in 2001) can perform, while Gary Coupland keeps the music coming.

A couple of towers provide a suitable point from which a pair of magic trumpets can suddenly protrude. Between them, a central balcony with plush red drop-curtain is both a platform for a variety of extras to appear and a suitable place for those magic kettles to appear.

If this show was all about Cilla and Artie leaving, it was Kevin who drew the most attention. He dressed as the Pied Piper with a pair of rats – going by the audience-pleasing names of Ant and Dec – sewn to his back. It is an appropriate costume, as he is one of those performers who engages with their audience from the moment he enters. You can’t really believe he would rather be anywhere else.

Gary with his gaudy yellow tail suit as Prince Charming (another appropriate costume), plays the long-suffering musician’s role to the hilt. The object of many of Artie’s put-downs, he provides a solid musical backbone, whether behind the keyboards or out front with his big red plastic trombone.

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The name of the actress taking over from Cilla and Artie will be announced later this week. All we know at the moment is that there is just the one of her. But what can be certain, is that Kevin’s irascible attitude and Gary’s unflappable professionalism mean that the future of the Singing Kettle is pretty much assured.

The trio will still have Artie and Cilla behind them, of course. Artie in his producer, director role and Cilla writing the songs. You don’t get rid of a pair of stalwarts that easily. Not for nothing was the final song, of the final show of Cilla and Artie’s final tour: Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny.

Run ended.

The Singing Kettle return with Rumble in the Jungle, on tour from March 10 and at the Festival Theatre on Saturday 6 July.
Full details on the Singing Kettle Website:


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