It’s a scene repeated endlessly the world over: a child in a shop wants to buy the book/magazine/toy/bedspread with their favourite character emblazoned on it as the parents try to mask how aghast they are and gently redirect their offspring to a sturdy, non-character based alternative. And they have a point – too often slapping a copyrighted image or logo onto something is an excuse for a shoddy, slapdash product.
Follow that logic and Scooby-Doo! The Mystery of the Pyramid should be rubbish, right? Actually it’s great fun, although not always for the right reasons. It really shouldn’t work at all. The plot, then: Scooby and the gang arrive in Egypt to link up with their explorer pal Otto and solve the mystery of Pharaoh Hatchepsout’s pyramid with the assistance of Otto’s native helpers. Inside the pyramids they’re beset by marauding mummies eager to protect the Pharoah’s treasure.
OK, so no prizes if you’re one step ahead here and you’ve already worked out who those mummies might be. But really, that’s what Scooby-Doo is all about. Thankfully, this doesn’t take the tiresome Big Knowing Wink approach to the classic cartoon as mined in endless bad stand-up routines – and, in fact, the live action Scooby films. Instead the emphasis is on innocent fun – chases, comedy set-pieces, acrobatic dancing and even original song routines. As such it’s a curious blend of musical and pantomime, complete with ‘It’s behind you!’ moments.
It’s frantic, entertaining stuff, but what’s disappointing is the script itself which is often limp, replete with weak gags and a highly spindly plot (anyone who thinks children today can’t cope with complex storytelling should be locked in a room with a Pixar box set forthwith). It’s down to the seriously plucky cast to breathe some life into it, and lord knows that’s not an easy task. As Shaggy, Danny Stokes manages to pull off an impression-like portrayal of a classic cartoon character and still make him loveable. No easy feat. Also doing fine work with pretty thankless roles are Julia Cave as Daphne and Douglas Walker as the intrepid Otto.
As for Scooby himself – well, there’s no doing the show without him. But once you’ve placed an actor (in this case Eddie Arnold) on stage in a man-sized brown dog suit, he’s got a job to move freely or deliver lines. So what can Scooby do? Consequently he’s never exactly the focus of the show, more of a figurehead – but again, that at least is true to the source material.
So no, maybe this isn’t a show to take children to if you want to instil in them a love of classic theatre, and it wouldn’t hurt for it to have a bit more meat on its bones, even if only funnier jokes and more of them. But at it stands, thanks to sheer energy of the cast, it’s a sugar-rush blast, the stage equivalent of waving a glo-stick while singing along to the Grease megamix in a Blackpool chippy.
What: Scooby-Doo! The Mystery of the Pyramid
Where: The Lowry, Salford Quays
When: April 11, 2014 and touring until the end of August
More info: http://www.scoobydoo-live.com/, www.thelowry.com