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Heidi (A Goat's Tale) (Huddersfield)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Northern Broadsides’ successful production of Heidi is revived this Christmas in Huddersfield, with my first impression a concern that its impact might be reduced in the more orthodox configuration of the Lawrence Batley Theatre. The cast of goats has less opportunity to run free and chew up patrons’ belongings than in the depths of Dean Clough. Such misgivings proved short-lived.

Andrew Pollard’s inspired take on Johanna Spyri’s alpine classic involves a group of rebellious Yorkshire goats who eat (as goats will) the pages of Heidi, the favourite book of their young minder Pip. Thereafter they regurgitate chunks of narrative (in impeccable standard English) in between acting out the story in goat-speak with much silliness and ingeniously improvised props and sound effects. The result is a very true, though simplified, version of the story combined with hilariously chaotic moments: after all, goats will be goats.

Tether (CP Hallam), the oldest goat, is the most reluctant actor, but surprisingly is soon hamming it up as a bullying housekeeper. Tan (Heather Pheonix) has claims to an “elucation” whereas Mether (Rebekah Hughes) has more of a musical bent and is allowed to compose the a cappella songs and wordless backing music. Yan (Gareth Cassidy) has the most fun of all because he’s convinced he’s a super-hero and keeps trying to hi-jack the Heidi story for a horror film or a tale of derring-do. Pip (Siena Lloyd) is a very serious girl, but prepared to play along – and she knows how the story ends!

Adam Sunderland’s production in Dawn Outhwaite’s designs is a consistent delight for all ages and, amidst the silliness, can be genuinely moving, as with Clara, Heidi’s invalid friend, created out of items of clothing manipulated by the cast.

Ron Simpson


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