It’s been 20 years since Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe’s Batboy first graced the stage (making it older than the entire cast of this Dance School of Scotland production). This musical theatre cult oddity is based on a 1992 Weekly World News schlock-horror story of a half-boy, half-bat found in a cave in West Virginia.
Expanding the story into themes of prejudice and acceptance, Edgar, as the titular batboy is re-Christened, is humanised by the family of the local vet, learns to speak in the finest RP English and is eventually introduced to the townsfolk. But, as with all the best B-movies, this happy acceptance doesn’t last. When a spate of cattle killings coincide with Edgar’s appearance it doesn’t take long for the townsfolk to turn. In classic B-movie style there’s every cliché about small town America here, right down to the flaming torch-wielding lynch mob.
With its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, this production, under the direction of Graham Dickie, manages to tread the fine line between sacrificing quality for cheap laughs and the acting remains on-point throughout. There ain’t no stage-school bad habits here. This is young talent at its finest, under tight direction.
What the cast lack in years, they more than made up for in ability. Matthew Wilson is a supremely talented young actor, as Batboy, his beautifully toned voice is an absolute treat for the ears, standout too is Kathryn Ronney (Mrs Parker) an actress with more talent and poise than many professionals decades older – this central pair should be assured of a bright future. That’s not to say they are the only highlights, both are more than ably supported by Samuel Stevenson as Dr Parker and Keir Ogilvy as revivalist minister Rev. Hightower, two young men who shine, as do the fine-sounding ensemble.
Mention must be made of the scenic design and staging which are as sublime as the acting, putting many national touring productions to shame with their quality and originality. This production is visually stunning and grabs the attention throughout.
Always an utter pleasure to watch, the Dance School of Scotland deliver sheer class and quality yet again.