If the world were according to Bertie, we’d all be living in Postman Pat’s village. The first theatrical adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s book, The World According to Bertie, is a bland look at Edinburgh’s New Town through the eyes of a five year old. The lives of Bertie’s neighbours, teachers and parents are presented to us in cutesy Technicolor as we sit on pink stools and they carousel around us in an ostensibly promenade staging.
Amongst others we meet friendly neighbour and anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, handsome bore Bruce, and Angus Lordie, an artist and owner of a beloved dog called Cyril who, excitingly, makes an actual appearance. Everyone seems terribly nice–apart from Bertie’s aspirational mother who is forcing him to learn Italian and hang out with a girl he doesn’t like. But in the face of so many stories, it can be hard to know who we are supposed to care about. Should it be Bertie’s father who always forgets where he parks his car? Or the girl in the art gallery who’s been dumped for Bertie’s teacher?
These are very gentle stories – so gentle that at times The World According to Bertie feels a little redundant. Nothing really happens in Bertie’s world, and the satire of McCall Smith’s book feels blunted and smoothed over. The cast aren’t given the opportunity to delve further than skin deep into their characters’ personalities and so nothing feels at stake. We should care about these people, but sadly even by the end, we don’t.
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