Pitlochry Festival Theatre
The Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s fantastic audio-digital venture Sound Stage is back with one final offering for 2021, a Christmas treat in the form of a family friendly adventure, based on the wonderful children’s book Donald & Benoit.
Many will recognise the iconic illustrations of John Patrick Byrne, his beautiful story has entranced children and their parents for a decade. This theatrical adaptation, created by playwright and theatre maker Jeanine Byrne, brings the characters to life in a way that is heart-warming, life-affirming and most importantly, a lot of fun. The story centres around Benoit, whose mother is dead and whose father becomes lost at sea. He is kept company by Donald, a cat who can talk, read and, as we later discover, wants to learn the drums. It’s a tale that requires you to suspend reality, and a welcome relief from the world outside.
As has been the case for all of the Sound Stage productions this year, the audio quality is excellent. From the gentle sounds of the Scottish seaside town to the excellent interpretations of just what a rock’n’roll band made up of dogs might sound like, you are instantly transported into the heart of the action. It’s not just the sound production that makes this so effective, the cast are just fantastic too, Connor Going keeps up the energy as Donald the cat while Ross Baxter, although perhaps sounding a little old for his character, is a charming Benoit. And the cast members playing the dogs are particularly humorous, sounding like they’re having a laugh.
In fact, the dogs, and their band, make for some of the most amusing moments, such as when The Dancing Devil Dogs rehearse their song, with lyrics such as “sniff, sniff, sniff, with all my chums”. And despite their canine mannerisms, the music is actually quite good! There is a sweet moment when Donald auditions for the band, and they discover with horror that he is a cat, before welcoming him with open paws. A lovely moment in a chaotic production that seems to mostly forget about the father who is lost at sea.
Donald & Benoit is a lot of fun, at times it is utterly chaotic, but children will love it and I greatly enjoyed the chance to escape the realities of the pandemic for an hour or so. Leave your adult mind at the door, and let your imagination run wild.
Written by: Original story by John Patrick Byrne
Adapted by: Jeanine Byrne
Directed by: Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti
Produced by: Pitlochry Festival Theatre in association with Naked Productions
Donald & Benoit will be available to stream between 17-19 December 2022. Information and booking via the below link.