Pleasance, Edinburgh
August, 2000

In addition to its (this year) twelve conventional performance spaces, the Pleasance has of late developed a tradition of staging "miniature" shows. A few years ago, the late Marcel Steiner's Smallest Theatre In The World a motorcycle side-car took up residence in the courtyard; this year, the tent erected on the lawn is palatial by comparison, being able to accommodate up to a couple of dozen audience members.

Maybellene is a camp confection of puppetry, with a living man's made-up head floating above a marionette body and lip-syncing to a variety of 1940s and '50s numbers as the title character overcomes the evil plans of a witch by metamorphosing into a mermaid, a moth and a snakey-scorpiony-thing in order to win back her perfect prince just in time for a wedding featuring a chorus-line of ten Barbie dolls dancing in unison on poles.

At two pounds a head for a fifteen-minute show, but with nine performances each afternoon, it's been a potentially remarkably astute move. It is able to accommodate more punters per day than most of the other Pleasance spaces, and the low ticket price means that the decision to see the show harks back to the throwaway days when most prices were this low and Fringe-goers didn't have to plan the investment of their time and money. A smart move all round.

Written for the Financial Times Web site,

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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