Preview: Black Beauty

Classic 19th century novel gets a stage re-working in the hands of children's theatre gurus

It's almost 140 years since Anna Sewell first introduced Black Beauty to the world. Since then, the horse has become possibly the most famous equine character of all time.

For theatre designer Shona Reppe, who readily admits to being 'pony mad' as a child, working on a new stage version of Sewell's tale has been a labour of love.

'I was brought up with the 1970's TV series, and its distinctive theme tune and galloping credits – I loved it!' she recalls. 'The book I came to more recently, and it's an epic read. Sewell tells the story from the horse's perspective and it highlights animal cruelty in a time when animals were treated as machines.

'We've obviously edited it to allow for a lot of Christmas fun, but the original story will still be honoured. It's a great adventure, with twists and turns and lots of trotting and cantering.'

Well-loved for her own shows, plus design work on Huff and White, Reppe is joined on the production by performers Andy Cannon and Andy Manley, both giants of the Scottish children's theatre circuit. Together, the trio make a Christmas show dream team.

'I've worked with both Andys before and love their work,' says Reppe. 'It's a joy to work with friends you respect and have fun with. Our plan is to capture all the fun and magic of a panto, in a Christmas show that isn't a panto. You don't need to know the story to enjoy it, but you'll know it by the time you leave. Oh no you won't – oh yes you will!'

Black Beauty, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 2–Sat 24 Dec, times vary.

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