Hey Presto is a delightfully-put-together tale of cat with a talent for magic (but terrible stage fright), and her best friend, a dog called Monty. Together they join the carnival, but their act doesn’t go quite to plan. There’s plenty of fun, bright songs, some well-judged audience interaction and lots of simple, but well-performed magic tricks, making for a packed 50 minutes.
There are three performers: Katie Arnstien as Presto, Henry Wyrley-Birch as Monty, and Anita Gollschewsky as a variety of supporting characters (including a fine lion and a very urban fox). All handle the material well, with Wyrley-Birch’s distinct dogginess proving particularly enjoyable.
The story isn’t groundbreaking, with thoughtful messages about being true to your friends and appreciating what you have alongside well-trodden warnings about the perils of stardom. But they work well, and there’s enough comedy and clowning to keep it fresh not cloying.
At points the sound mixing made the songs hard to follow, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the ubiquitous ukulele, I’m not sure I like people (or cats) pretending to play the ukulele either – I doubt any kids were fooled, especially when the instrument disappeared mid-song never to be seen again.
Those small points aside, this is a gorgeous show for kids. The magic-show plot could have got away with just one or two tricks, but we are treated to as many as you would find in any children’s conjuring show. The cast dealt particularly well with a small audience, who took a little while to warm up to their antics, winning them round with real charm. By the finale, everyone was under this show’s joyous spell.