Theatre – Lyric, Hammersmith: Abbacadabra. By Irving Wardle

The first video fairy tale to hit the London stage, this show is aimed at the non-theatre-going, computer-wise generation; and by featuring such chart-toppers as Elaine Paige and B A Robertson in a strong company, including Sylvester McCoy and Phill Daniels (plus some excellent dancers) it is out to spread its net as well as break new ground.

Adapted from a French source, David Wood’s book attempts a marriage of magic and technology through the story of three children who meet up with Aladdin, Cinderella, Pinocchio, and the Beast and join them on their journey to the castle of Sleeping Beauty. The route lies through an enchanted forest heavily guarded by the witch Carabosse.

Jenny Tiramani’s forest is a maze of flourescent silver tubes, with lamps and monitor screens hanging like exotic fruit, and the costumes of video bandits (led by the crackling Miss Paige in black body-stocking and high boots) strike a corresponding note of high-tech fascist glamour in contrast with the humbly traditional garb of the travelers. ABBA’s repetitiously pulsating music has the effect of nullifying Don Black’s lyrics; but atmospherically it is perfectly in key with the rest of Peter James’s production.

Two things scupper the show. First, theatre cannot perform a full electronic operation in the style of Disney’s Tron.

No hard-core computer audience is going to be fobbed off with an array of panto props no matter how they may wink and bleep. Secondly, by leading the story back to the primary of traditional fairy tales and magic, Abbacadabra is doing a hard-selling job for the pre-electronic age which is unlikely to win any converts from the space invasion tables. Transcribed for ABBA World

The Times (London) · Wednesday, 14 December 1983 (Page 9)

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