The Voice Thief

Aug 21 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Resounding success

Summerhall (Venue 26): Fri 7 – Sun 30 Aug 2015

Involving, clever, and with an intriguing melancholy and subtle political edge, The Voice Thief at Summerhall is thoroughly recommended for all.

Created by Gill Robertson, Karen Tennent and Ian Cameron for Catherine Wheels, the production sees the audience led around the Mackenzie Institute for the Encouragement of Vocal Harmony.

Image with previous cast. Photo Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Image with previous cast. Photo Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Director Robertson has made the best possible use of the available resources. The Summerhall basement could have been made for the promenade performance, with Tennent’s design and Danny Krass’s sound simply perfect.

The smallest touch, such as the posters on the wall, speaks of real care and commitment. There is an intriguing feel to the Institute – oddly realistic but otherworldly – that makes the experience thoroughly involving, slightly eerie, and fabulous in both senses.

There are hints of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not least in Crawford Logan’s striking, Willy Wonka-ish Dr Broderick Mackenzie, the man with the world’s sharpest hearing who is determined to help those with unfortunate voices. Of course, his motives may not be as altruistic as they appear at first glance.

His daughter Beatrice is interestingly played by Amy MacGregor. There are clear conflicts in the character if you care to look, between sheltered girl loyal to her father and a young woman yearning to be free. Hannah Donaldson and Isabelle Joss, as the doctor’s two assistants and looking like Scooby Doo’s Velma reimagined by Dr Seuss, are similarly impressive.

There are moments of what the BBFC would call ‘moderate peril’, but the 9+ recommendation seems about right. The trouble, however, with mounting shows aimed at children on term-time afternoons is that the average age of the audience will be higher than it might otherwise be. This lack of children in the party leads to a problem with the performers’ interaction with them, and also points up the production’s only real drawbacks.

Rob Evans’s script is perhaps not as strong as other elements, and the ‘story’ part is not as involving as the original tour of the institute. Things are made a little too clear for slow adults, where children would simply accept the situation. Furthermore, the themes seem aimed at adults – while it is important for nine-year-olds to be aware of how women’s voices are still being silenced, it is perhaps not a major preoccupation for them.

Similarly, the mixed emotions adults feel on seeing their children grow up is not something children are themselves necessarily aware of – which explains why Toy Story 3 is more popular with adults than children.

These are minor gripes with a production that has a peculiar magic and will linger long in the memory.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Summerhall (Venue 26), 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Friday 7 – Sunday 30 August (not Mons)
Age recommendation: 9+
Daily, not Mons: 2pm and 6pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Catherine Wheels website:


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