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A Children's Pantomime

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Under A Cloud Press

Funny Panto has serious message

By Kate Zimmerman
(Herald writer)

Pantomime and pollution control would not seem to go hand in hand, but multi-media artist Brian Dyson has paired them up and is hoping they'll march comfortably together.

Dyson is a recording artist with the band Big Dog who found himself recently with a few songs in search of a story.

He's always been interested in environmental issues. And some- how a pantomime seemed to be the ideal vehicle to get songs and message together. Its tradition and recognizable stereotypes also held a certain allure for the Englishman.

"There's always a bad guy," he says.

Though he'd never written a musical before, this combination of elements inspired Dyson to come up with his first work for the stage, Under a Cloud. It opens Wednesday at the Pumphouse Theatre.

Under a Cloud is a cautionary tale about a group of schoolgirls facing off against industrial polluter Baron Piglington (who Dyson claims bears no resemblance to Edmonton meatpacker Peter Pocklington).

"The Baron, in his pursuit of profit, has totally ignored environmental concerns," he explains. "It's a story with an educational message for children about looking after the environment."

Panto provides the play with a comic atmosphere. It also offers an opportunity for audience involvement, which is particularly suitable because the purpose of Under a Cloud is to encourage children to preserve the natural world around them.

While director Tony Hetman thinks families will come to see Under a Cloud because musicals are rarely produced in Calgary, Dyson thinks people will be attracted by the chance to see a pantomime and-by its important subject matter.

He also expects a certain number of tickets to be sold to his neighbors. Dyson is president of Syntax Arts Society, an art group based in the Hillhurst/Sunnyside area. Since part of Syntax's mandate is involving its community in cultural projects, about half the cast and crew of Under a Cloud was drawn from that part of town.