Pobby and Dingan, Brunton Theatre, MusselburghMary Brennan
Published on 1 Mar 2010
The sharp intake of breath at the end was from the little girl.
Her mum, like many of the adults in the audience, was blinking back tears. Surely, after everything young Ashmol had done for his kid sister – and frankly the requests concerning her imaginary friends had been increasingly fantastical and downright embarrassing for Ashmol – she would get better... wouldn’t she?
But there’s a gritty, uncompromising edge to Pobby and Dingan that refuses to sugar-coat the gut-wrenching moment when a 12-year-old Aussie boy leaves his childhood behind – loses gung-ho naiveté, perhaps, but acquires something truly enriching: an understanding that hope, love, family bonds, and the kindness of strangers are more valuable than the opals mined in Lightning Ridge.
It’s quite a learning curve for Ashmol. And for the 8+ age group that this vividly staged, astutely-nuanced Catherine Wheels production – directed by Gill Robertson, designed by Karen Tennant, soundscore by David Paul Jones – has in its sights. But as Ashmol himself says at the start, his story is a good one, and Rob Evans’s adaptation of the original book (by Ben Rice) has a feisty energy that honours that claim.
Scott Turnbull’s adolescent Ashmol has a rough and tumble charm, a forthright honesty, that swiftly draws you into the family turmoils that, unlike Pobby and Dingan, are all too real.
The rest of the cast – Ashley Smith, Ros Sydney and Damien Warren-Smith – ensure that Lightning Ridge’s collection of opal-dreaming oddballs spark Ashmol’s adventure with dashes of daft humour, scary hostility and ultimately an uplifting spirit of community in times of loss and heartbreak.
A real beaut, in anyone’s lingo.
Star rating: ****