The Rainbow's End

Ofegus Theatre Company presents 'The Raimbow's End'.

Ofegus Theatre Company presents 'The Raimbow's End'.

When The Rainbow’s End acts up as a panto, it almost succeeds. That’s in the latter stages of the piece when the familiar elements – “He’s behind you!”, cross-dressing handsome hunk, swashbuckling Principal Boy, knockabout comic duo, appeals to the audience for assistance in weaving the magic spells, etc. etc. – all come together. At that stage the hard-working Ofegus cast have the children, mummies, daddies and, in my case, grandpas in their hands.

But they’ve left it too late. The play lingers too long at the start over a convoluted plot that is subjected to tedious exposition by a straight line of talking heads. The locale and its inhabitants are total strangers: the Kingdom of Enchantasia; Princess Melisande (Diane Jennings); Princess Abigail and Fairy Which Way (= ditsy one), both played by Louise Guyett; Zavelthor (= Evil One) and Dedalus (= personable leprechaun), both played by Stephen Gorman; Mulligan (= Irish and hilarious), played by Richard Shaffrey. It’s as if the (uncredited) playwright has strained to be original, when taking a more familiar plot and going full blast for the panto format from the get-go might have been far more rewarding.

If this curmudgeonly reviewer remained hard to please, his nine-year-old companion warmed to the task of appreciating the action as it progressed. She laughed, clapped and shouted at all the right moments, and was not shy about mingling with the cast on-stage at the end. So the message here might be about the world-weary adults putting their fatigue to one side and trying to see what’s presented through youthful eyes.

Ofegus has energy and ambition. By its own admission in the programme, it’s “a brand new professional company.” That means there is some distance to travel in determining what they’re about it and how to go about it. Production values – set and costumes – were perfunctory and the lighting, a vital means of conveying the binding or unbinding of spells, lacked impact. This play was not particularly beneficial in “helping children to a deeper understanding of themselves” (again from the programme), more like an old-fashioned Yuletide distraction. The gap between the aspiration of the company and the frivolity of Rainbow’s End points to a need to either plump for all-out entertainment or become more reflective about the Ofegus mission.

To claim that professional theatre for children “is almost non-existent” is a revelation of ignorance. Think Barnstorm, TEAM, Graffiti, Branar, Cahoots…. Think BaborĂ³. Think how these companies develop and/or commission scripts that can be both playful and provocative; think character development and ensemble playing; think through all aspects of design and production.

That said, there were a few real sparkles about this rainbow: the lads were engagingly hyperactive, but needed a meatier script to get their teeth into. Gina Costigan was both elegant and malevolent as the wicked witch (reminiscent of Morticia Addams), while her virtuous adversary, trainee-witch Wendy, was played with considerable verve by Sarah Gallagher. Niamh Hogan buckled her swash in fine style, proved to be no mean duellist and (I’m not giving away vital secrets) emerged from behind the beard as a highly desirable princess. One would like to see these potential talents funnelled into more challenging work.

Derek West, in his youth, soldiered in drag as Widow Twankey and Ermintrude (Ugly Sister), as well as directing Aladdin. He regularly attends and reviews plays for children and young people.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Rainbow's End by Ofegus Theatre

28 Dec - 4 January, 2011

Produced by Ofegus Theatre
In Mill Theatre

Directed by Leslie Lalor

Set & Lighting Design: Colm McNally

With: Moe Dunford, Sarah Gallagher, Gina Costigan, Richard Shaffrey, Louise Guyett, Stepehn Gorman, Diane Jennings, Niamh Hogan