Although I always have the best of intentions about promoting and reviewing online young people’s theatre, I’d be the first to admit that it has often taken a back seat. I’ve now tackled a very high percentage of shows on the regular list so I’m going to make a rather more concerted effort to engage with those on the junior version and get this up to the same level. I thought I’d start by heading for one where the title had long intrigued me. The title Mustard Doesn’t Go With Girls seems pretty nonsensical and indeed much of the show is – in a good way, I hasten to add. However, it also has deeply serious messages which are pretty impossible to miss as they turn traditional fairy stories on their heads.
Bric á Brac Theatre set out their stall pretty rapidly in the first few minutes. We are in the library of a town called Bow-on-Tie, which is nowhere special if you discount the fact that the librarian is a crocodile. She is considering the fact that in the traditional tales (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) it’s the handsome prince who “saves the day”. Even in Red Riding Hood which doesn’t have a handsome prince that task is allocated to the handsome woodsman. Clearly our current tale is going to adopt a different slant and indeed it does as Abigail is the proactive heroine who eventually puts everything to rights. She wants to be a rocket scientist, but the town is governed by rules and laws instituted by another crocodile who is the mayor, Croc/Croque Madame and her council of animal cronies. They are aided and abetted by headteacher Miss Plum who issues detentions for minor infringements always ensuring that there are two boys and two girls sent to a room from which they never reappear. Abigail decides to investigate along with best friend Henry (who wants to be a baker) and when he gets captured it is she that sorts things out and “saves the day”.
It’s as barmy as it sounds but good fun; without being overly preachy it certainly gets its message across. It’s a little baggy in places but that’s often the way with pieces that have been devised from scratch and that’s the case here as the cast of six have all contributed. There are no credits at the end of the film so sadly I can’t name any individuals, but they all do a fine job with broad brush stroke characters (which isn’t a criticism) and keeping the energy levels high. There are characters to cheer for and a splendid villain to boo – I love the fact that as part of her costume she was wearing the ubiquitous Crocs as footwear; a nice little visual joke for the adults. The sextet of performers is joined by a pianist (David Tims, I assume from the video descriptor) who underscores throughout and leads in the several catchy songs which are delivered.
Staging is simple and directed by Anna Marshall (again taken from the descriptor) with some ingenious use of props centring on books reminding us that the frame narrative is set in a library. There are some extra large volumes used for scenery changes by simply turning the pages. Filming is very basic – one camera, one angle of shot but the fixed perspective actually gives the sense of seating in a theatre seat – and there are no titles or credits so what you see is what you get. The piece’s strength lies in its message that gender shouldn’t confine expectations about following set pathways and even if younger audience members are only absorbing this at second hand, it’s still a valuable lesson that is being instilled. And the title? SPOILER ALERT: When the villain eats the detainee children she likes the girls with honey and the boys with mustard: therefore, Mustard Doesn’t….
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece is Disco With Mum. It’s a pretty familiar lockdown scenario with mother (Julie Graham) and daughter (Saskia Ashdown) conversing from separate locations via the internet. Ostensibly there to plan a playlist for a virtual disco, they instead discuss the recent death of a partner/father and what the future holds for them both and the next generation. Hannah Lavery’s script is of her typical high quality but it’s rather too short to work its magic.