The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4577066.ece Tuesday October 6 2015 Alan Radcliffe Four Stars Over the past two decades, Shona Reppe has built a reputation as one of the leading purveyors of theatre for children and families, both at home in Scotland and internationally. In recent years she has fine-tuned her inventive, offbeat approach to storytelling in shows such as Potato Needs a Bath, in which a group of anthropomorphised vegetables and fruit get ready for a party, and Huff (created with Andy Manley), an ingenious art installation that reimagined the story of the Three Little Pigs as a CSI-style crime scene. Her latest work, produced by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, delivers the same winning blend of story, meticulous design detail and perfectly pitched humour. Our host for the evening is the eponymous Sho, a successful, if rather conceited, magician, who “never misses a trick”, touring the world performing feats of illusion in the company of her sidekick, Rabbit. Once upon a time, Rabbit and Sho made a formidable double act, but their relationship has become as frayed as the poor bunny’s fur. Tired of being pulled out of hats and being forced to stick his head in guillotines, Rabbit performs his own disappearing trick, leaving Sho alone and bereft. As with all the best children’s theatre, Magic Sho works on a variety of levels. The magic routines and sleight-of-hand are slickly choreographed, set to the kind of muzak that used to accompany the conveyor belt of prizes on The Generation Game. Reppe shows off her versatility, performing an array of close-hand tricks as well as an inspired robot dance pastiche to the strains of Kraftwerk. While there are visual gags aplenty, including the moment when Sho insouciantly uses Rabbit to clean her boots, the piece contains an equally involving strain of melancholy. The sequence in which Reppe employs containers of various shapes and sizes to catch drips from a leaking roof is as moving as it is visually impressive. The show engages hugely on the level of character, too, with Reppe giving a witty, credible performance as the self-satisfied magician who gets taken down a peg or two, while Rabbit, with his missing tail and gentle Alan Bennett voice, is yet another example of Reppe’s gift for creating three-dimensional characters out of inanimate objects. It doesn’t take long for the performer to draw her young audience into the story. Indeed, one of the show’s main pleasures lies in watching the kids engage wholeheartedly with the action.
SCOTSMAN Kelly Apter IT WAS Christmas 1979 when everything changed. The year Santa gave young Sho her first wand, inspiring a life-long passion for magic. Up until then, Sho and her best friend Rabbit were on an equal footing, even if only one of them actually had a pulse. Once the wand arrived, however, and Rabbit was relegated to the role of ‘magician’s assistant’, things took a turn for the worse. Magic Sho Tron Theatre, Glasgow Rating: **** Not that Sho is any the wiser – she’s too busy being glamorous and fabulous, touring the world with her magic. But in the quiet moments, in-between the tricks and the banter, Rabbit finds a way to let the audience know about his plight. When a cuddly toy takes on anthropomorphic qualities and expresses sadness, you’d need a heart of steel not to be moved. Sitting in the spotlight, white ears at a jaunty angle, Rabbit looks so vulnerable and sad, even the grown-ups in the crowd are saying “ahh”. Which says less about the toy itself, and more about the show’s creator, Shona Reppe. The undisputed queen of the Scottish children’s theatre scene, Reppe is not only a captivating performer but a talented designer. The set – part living room, part stage – is all her own work, topped off with glitzy costumes worthy of any 1970s variety show. Following a series of lessons from magician Kevin McMahon, and a trip to the Blackpool Magic Convention, Reppe now has another skill to her bow, which she incorporates skilfully into the show. Magic wands miraculously grow or change colour, handkerchiefs disappear and reappear, rope knots are tied and untied without the use of fingers – and of course, Rabbit is regularly put to ill-use. Whether he’s being forced to dress up in a ridiculous costume, having his head chopped off or being pulled from a hat, Sho’s long-time pal soldiers on, without a cuddle or word of praise from his thoughtless companion. Until finally, enough is enough. Very much a show of two halves, at first Magic Sho has us laughing out loud at Reppe’s dry wit and audience interaction. But we all know the fun can’t last when one half of the duo is so unhappy, and the final section takes us to a far more emotional place. The tricks may be basic, but Reppe executes them perfectly (“That’s magic!” shrieked one little boy joyfully mid-show) and her humour crosses the generations with intelligence and charm.
TV BOMB Stewart Mclaren 4 stars Children’s theatre wunderkind Shona Reppe has created a melancholy, surreal one woman show with this amusing magic act. Having gained critical acclaim from previous productions such as Potato Needs a Bath, Cinderella, and The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean, Reppe has taken on a new format for her latest opus: the world of magic. Perhaps the tricks used in the production aren’t the most skilled or modern but that is not the point of this quaint little piece. With a sly style of humour, Reppe coaxes the audience into the world of her alter ego, Magic Sho, and her heavily burdened sidekick, Rabbit (in reality a rundown cuddly toy). Set almost entirely within Sho’s home she shares with Rabbit, the piece contains a number of amusing set pieces and sequences that had the audience in an uproar. Reppe uses dark humour to the show’s advantage: whilst the tricks will amaze the youngsters, adults can be taken in with some amusing quips and Sho’s relatively selfish egotism. Poor Rabbit is a puppet that has taken some neglect through his years of working with Sho and his occasional monologues add a note of sadness to proceedings. There are plenty of times an “aww” comes from audience members young and old. This just shows Reppe’s talents in bringing a three dimensional characterisation to a rundown object. The relationship between Rabbit and Sho is not only amusing but entirely believable. There’s a real chemistry between Reppe and the toy and when Rabbit finally decides he’s had enough, it provides an interesting turn of events. A deceptively simple children’s show, Reppe has created a darkly humorous piece that highlights the importance of friendship. Amongst the cheesy tricks and old school razzle dazzle is a really sweet tale of two old timers who depend on each other. It’s like Paul Daniels and Bugs Bunny starring in a production of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser.
Edinburgh Guide Magic Sho, Traverse, Review By Irene Brown - Posted on 19 November 2015
4 stars Award winning artist Shona Reppe is no stranger to creating magical shows for children but with her latest work she takes things to another level. The show’s title Magic Sho is a bit of a giveaway. To prepare for it Reppe has learned some real magic tricks, even attending that Blackpool Magic Convention with Edinburgh's Magicfest magician Kevin McMahon where they were surrounded by an array of paraphernalia that goes with the craft of illusion. Reppe has beautifully distilled the slightly tacky glamour, all thin red satin, shimmery silver, wands and strange containers, of that esoteric world for this clever and thoroughly entertaining show whose atmosphere is brilliantly augmented by Danny Krass’s sounds and Kate Bonney’s lighting. From the big show biz opening when Reppe struts her bespangled and top hatted stuff to the sounds of It’s a Kinda Magic, she has the audience immediately on board and into the show’s spirit of fun and illusion with her impish charm and warm comic engagement. Across the piece she performs some impressive close magic tricks (Traverse 2 is quite small!) as her magician’s life’s story, from her present of a magic wand from Santa in 1979 to her world tours, is narrated through a recording of her voice. Her ‘lovely assistant’ and life-long companion, an orange eyed white toy rabbit, has a male North of England voice that’s signalled by music box sounds of You are My Sunshine when he bemoans his lot. His version of their world is not quite the same as his Barry Manilow-loving magician chum so he decides he’s had enough of risking life, limb and fluffy tail and disappears. Reppe’s character speaks directly to the audience too in her easy, natural style and takes the show to another level making it a poignant tale of love, loss and the folly of taking a loved one for granted. She pulls at the heartstrings as she shifts from being glamorously suited and booted (following her mother’s advice that you can’t go wrong with a good haircut and a decent pair of shoes) to being dressed in sad pyjamas and a rabbit eared dressing gown while making balloon rabbits. The tongue-in-cheek encouragement to applaud and join in with the pre-recorded cheers are unneeded for this terrifically enjoyable 50 minutes that amounts to more than a kinda magic – it’s the real McCoy!
Shona Reppe (Puppets) is a limited company registered in Scotland and recognised as a Scottish Charity, Company number 267273. Charity Number SC035750 Registered Office: Catherine Wheels, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, EH21 6AF, Producer/Administrative Support: Louise Gilmour Wills