Dir. Peter Robson, Scottish Youth Theatre, 30th November – 2nd December 2017
Advertising a musical about cancer as ‘good for the soul’ might seem a bit of a stretch, but in the case of ‘Dani Girl’ it does hold some truth. Besides the clearly cathartic effect of crying (a lot), the story also has many hilarious moments that lift the quite serious mood. Additionally, the Epilogue Theatre group donates part of their profits to Logan’s Fund, a children’s cancer charity, which means by watching the performance you are actually doing some good. This adds a real social dimension to the heartwarming fictional tale.
‘Dani girl’ tackles the sensitive topic of cancer through the eyes of a child. It tells the story of Dani, a girl diagnosed with leukemia, who has to stay in hospital for treatment. She turns the dire situation into a magical quest to get back her hair. Accompanying her on this journey is her guardian angel Raph, her nerdy hospital roommate Marty and – not to forget – her beloved teddy Mr. Fritz.
Even though this musical does not feature any memorable tunes that stay in your head (and ears) afterwards, some of the messages do remain. I was worried about the singing before, but especially Janet Foster (Dani) and Marnie Yule (her mother) showed remarkable skill with solos that gave me the chills. Their male colleagues might have been musically inferior in comparison, but redeemed themselves through their acting. Josh Tinline-Bartholomew (Marty) does a great job portraying the loveable nerd while Ruaridh Mathieson (Raph) possesses extreme versatility and brilliant comedic talent.
This musical is a rich story about pain, faith and imagination that asks the big question “Why cancer?” It mixes real life with adventures and fairy tales: at one point the characters are literally battling cancer with a lightsaber. Of course, some hard truths cannot be avoided and – as one can expect from a musical about cancer – I cried; oh boy, did I cry. To be fair, most of the audience was in tears because of the emotional weight of the story and gave the cast standing ovations at the end. Even though I did have some issues with the story’s possible answer to the big question it asks, it was an enjoyable evening that marked a great debut for Epilogue Theatre.