Reviews 2015

Albee Vector the Sound Collector

Pleasance

Making fantastic use of the humble jam jar, Albee and his lovely assistant Andromeda travel the world collecting sounds….all this with the aid of the rather cute and captivating sound hoover – Mustard. In this imaginative show, you are whisked away to the edge of the world and back ….

Albee is forced to go on a quest to find the most beautiful sound in the world when his assistant Andromeda is placed under a curse by an especially nasty King – the two performers are skilled storytellers and bring us all along on this adventure with them. With the clever addition of using sounds from the jars to add to the story, it’s a really fun piece of theatre…the audience get to be involved too – filling up some jars of sounds and carefully holding them throughout the show until they are required. The set itself is fun and quirky – filled with wonky shelves and jam jars aplenty…

Packed with engaging storytelling, some silly noises and an ultimately uplifting message about the beauty of sounds, this is a real gem of a show and comes highly recommended!

My mini-reviewer says: ” I liked it lots because I got to look after the sheep noises and then add them to the story. “

Alfie White: Space Explorer  

Pleasance Courtyard

Alfie White is crazy about space, and this tale of adventure and discovery brought to the Fringe by Tall Stories (the company behind ‘Emily Brown and the Thing’ and ‘The Snail and the Whale’) is one that is sure to tug the heart strings ….

Imaginatively performed by two cast members, this gentle and evocative story, set in 1967, leads us through the daily routines of Alfie White who loves all things space! After pretending his Dad is an astronaut, Alfie’s rather lonely existence changes with the appearance of his friend Meg and together they set out on a mission to search for Alfie’s dad who has been missing for over two years. We are whisked off on their journey – following the two friends into the world of jazz music and beyond in this heart-warming tale. The themes of loss, loneliness, friendship and family are cleverly explored in the performance, meaning it is better suited to slightly older children.

With a simple set, the cast members engage the audience with their energetic movements and physical momentum…. Lucy Tuck playing Meg, and a handful of other characters, is able to seamlessly transform between them using only her movements and voice – it’s a truly talented and fascinating performance.

Buckle up and prepare to go along on the mission – it’s well worth the ride….

My mini-reviewer says: “I enjoyed it when Alfie had to go through the alleyway that smelt of wee and I liked it when Alfie sang ‘space-time boogie’.”

Anonymouse
Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh

A poetic mouse is the star of this tactile, sensory and gentle story brought to us by Ipdip Theatre. The audience are invited to sit in a circle on cosy coloured cushions to fully immerse themselves in this lovely interactive performance aimed at the under threes….

We meet a writer who travels to a forest and makes friends with a shy mouse – as the seasons change, we get to play with crocheted fruit, warmed stones, pieces of silk, white fluffy cushions and most magical of all- shaved pieces of ice…..all this is accompanied with engaging storytelling and songs. Charlotte Allan and Emma Claire Brightlyn are fantastic at capturing the attention and imagination of the young audience and fully embrace this age group by allowing children to touch, taste and crawl over their set….at the end children are invited to come and play in the beautiful cardboard house too !
The performance loses itself a little with the lack of a clear narrative and the journey through the seasons is slightly unclear and hurried for the intended audience – with such basic sensory activities which the children love, a simpler story or more exaggerated visual clues would have been perfect.

Sprinkled snow, warming stones, lovely songs and a magical mouse make this a enchanting performance for very little ones !

My mini-reviewer says: ” I liked playing with all the food and the snow best.”

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Chicken Licken and the Little Red Hen

Summerhall

Greeting his audience from his rather chaotic and messy kitchen, puppeteer Adam Bennett guides us through this delightful interpretation of the well-known tales ‘Chicken Licken’ and ‘The Little Red Hen’, perfect for those aged 3-6.

Right from the outset, the audience are encouraged to interact with the story- be it remembering the recipe, joining in the singing, naming the new-born chick or simply by shouting out at the fox ! Favourite characters including Henny Penny and Foxy Loxy are brought to life by Bennett; the puppets are simple yet engaging and as the kitchen transforms to allow shadow puppetry too it is evident he is extremely talented- it even appears he is a dab hand at juggling too! With a beautifully handcrafted set, the two stories are woven together through the baking of the bread, and the need for an egg from which the very cute and fluffy Chicken Licken originally hatches. With puppets appearing out of eggs, the mixing bowl and even the oven this is a show filled with surprises that little ones will love…

An energetic, sometimes silly show, filled with fun, flour and feathery friends ….

My mini-reviewer says: “I liked it when the the Little Red Hen asked who would eat the bread with her and everyone said ‘I will’ but she said ‘no’ – that was funny. ”

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Hairy Maclary’s Cat Tales                                                        Assembly George Square Theatre

Just fantastic from start to finish, this brand new Hairy Maclary show, brought to the Fringe by Nonsense Room Productions features everything you would expect – music, songs, seamless storytelling and most importantly Hairy Maclary and his most loved feline friends.

Fans of the adorable books by Lynley Dodd will not be disappointed as her characters are brought to life in this wonderful stage adaptation and younger members of the audience were delighted to see Hairy Maclary and his friends – Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Muffin Maclay, Bitzer Maloney, Schnitzel Von Krumm as well as Slinky Malinki, Scarface Claw and Stickybeak Sid.

Enclosed within a wider narrative of searching for missing trophies needed for the cat show, the character Miss Plum guides the audience through popular Hairy Maclary tales which are performed using an imaginative array of props, puppets, songs and movement. Participation is strongly encouraged and we clapped, stamped and sang along with the cast! The real highlight of the show is the animals themselves- fabulous costumes with elaborate headpieces mean the dogs and cats truly come alive, each revealing their own playful characters and the entire audience loved them! Along with some catchy songs and singalongs, this is a captivating and delightful performance…

Energetic storytelling, intertwined with songs and puppets- this is an entertaining show for younger children and any fans of Lynley Dodd’s magical books…

My mini-reviewers say: “The sausage dog was the best – he was funny.”

“Hairy Maclary winning the ‘scruffiest cat’ award was my favourite bit. The dogs all barking together when Scarface Claw was up the tree was also funny. I also liked being a fire engine trying to scare Scarface Claw.”

Just So Stories

Momentum Venues@ St Stephen’s

This simple yet effective two woman show, offers a fun, interactive retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’.

From the moment you enter, you are invited to be a helper in the short staffed office of the characters, ‘HOW’ and ‘WHICH’. The children are encouraged to dress up, get up on stage and use their imaginations to get involved in making the stories come to life.Using playful mime, storytelling and song, we are told the stories of how the elephant got his trunk, how the rhinoceros got his skin, and how the camel got his hump- all accompanied by the lilting chords of ukuleles.

Gentle, charming and low key, this show felt very open and accessible for kids 3-7, and St Stephen’s Centre offers a lovely venue that is both intimate and spacious. The take home message for both parents and children, was never to stop asking questions, lest you turn into an adult who thinks they know it all!

My mini reviewer said; “It was awesome! I liked the puppet heads, and I liked it when the crocodile came and had a tug of war with the elephant.”
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Our Teacher’s a Troll

Summerhall – Roundabout

Today I have learned to speak Troll – which some may consider quite an achievement but it was easy really as you’ll find out if you are lucky enough to see this show – I have also been taken on a whirlwind of an adventure by Holly and Sean – two terrible twins, full of mischief and merriment – as they lead us through this fast-paced, action packed tale of the upheaval that occurs when a Troll takes over as head teacher at their school.

This play, written by Dennis Kelly (of Matilda the musical fame ), is an exciting escapade, performed by just two people (Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis) who manage to imaginatively convey a myriad of characters between themselves. This is spellbinding storytelling that is only the slightest bit scary – I definitely saw a few folk jump when initially meeting the Troll! The school is turned upside down when the new head teacher introduces a strict ‘no naughtiness’ regime topped with enforced eating of Brussel sprouts, shoe swapping and boxing glove wearing. The twins are on a mission to save the school and save themselves…

Perfectly matched to this round venue, the performers circle the stage and sit with the audience to convey the tale….everyone feels included and we’re all transported to the various school assemblies taking place. Minimal costuming and props, and the expert use of lighting and sound to create the Troll itself means there is plenty of scope for our imaginations to run wild, which is a rather unique and precious experience at the Fringe.

Suited better to older children (7+) able to follow this chaotic and gruesome tale, do not let this energetic and mesmerising storytelling pass you by….

My mini reviewer says : “The Troll was loud and ate four people, but I was only a little bit scared. I liked the happy ending.”

Puzzle

Space Triplex

Captivating and colourful, this charming show created especially for young children is perfect for anyone aged 3 months to 3 years…

Lithuanian choreographer Birute Baneviciute, manages to capture the attention of her young audience perfectly with this lovely dance and musical experience. The three performers explore a simple range of colours-red, orange, green, yellow and blue, using fun shapes and movements. Using plenty of eye contact and exaggerated facial expressions, the performers are able to fully engage all of the children in the room – I was totally impressed with the level of attention in the space and the lack of noise – they were all completely mesmerised.

This is an ideal show to bring younger children to – there are plenty of opportunities to get involved too, whether it be bouncing along in time to the performers and music, rolling coloured shapes across the room or at the end being invited to play with all of the ‘puzzle’ shapes.

Accompanied by enchanting music, each piece being carefully selected as being the right pitch for children- it feels as if every detail has been well thought of in this innovative, playful piece….

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The Piper

Underbelly Potterow

Imaginative and compelling, this is a fantastic interpretation of the familiar Pied Piper story, using stunning visuals and gorgeous puppets – the one striking difference to other shows is that children (and an adult with them) are invited on stage, to be part of the whole performance. The child I brought with me is still raving on about how great this was and what a unique opportunity – to be part of the cast in a show at the Fringe!!

With the clever use of headphones, participating children and adults are given instructions as to what to do and they in turn are part of the story – they become the children of Hamlin. Hamlin has been updated and is a modern, slick and tidy town, the forests have been destroyed to make room for the busy town and the mayor seems somewhat preoccupied with himself and his hair! However, help is required as the garbage is soon overflowing and this brings in the rats….A dancing bear is the enchanting reinvented Piper in this version and even brings with her a happy ending of sorts too.

Innovative storytelling, gorgeous visuals and the rare opportunity to participate mean this show is a total treat….

My mini reviewer says : It was awesome being part of the show – I got to be on the stage the whole time and the Piper talked to me…”

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The Princess and the Frog                                                             Sweet Grassmarket

‘Let’s All Dance’ have brought this beautiful ballet to the Fringe this year – it’s a fantastic introduction to ballet for small children. The costumes are beautiful (including a very impressive Frog mask) and the simple stage and soft music are ideal to showcase the enchanting dancers and their talents.

Supported with very little narrative, the dancers weaved this well-loved fairy tale of a friendship developing between a Princess and a frog together delightfully; they were able to bring the characters alive -especially the Frog played by Stephen Dole which added an element of humour and playfulness to the piece. The children I had with me and those seated around were mesmerised throughout the whole performance.

The only thing to be aware of are the hidden extras in cost in the form of a programme and photos with the cast being charged for which did feel slightly unnecessary.

With a running time of 45 minutes, which includes a ‘meet the dancers’ session, this engaging show is a worthwhile introduction to ballet performances for smaller children and those that love dance….

My mini-reviewer says: “I liked the ballerina dancing and when the frog jumped out.”


 The Secret Life of Suitcases                                   Scottish Storytelling Centre

From the very beginning of being seated, right up to the final goodbye, this is a captivating and delightful performance which children will love. Full of adventures, puppets, transforming t-shirts and naturally suitcases!

We join Larry as his world gets turned upside down by the arrival of a very interesting little suitcase. This serene and imaginative puppet show takes us from the dreary office that Larry works in and out into open space – a park, the ocean, a tropical island and lastly outer space itself where he is joined by three ‘quarks’ (caretakers of the Universe), who are a quirky and humorous addition to this voyage. It is in the space control centre that we learn the real reason for the mysterious arrival of the suitcase and that it is not the first to have entered Larry’s life….

Beginning with the three simple lightbulbs illuminating this gorgeous set, the suitcases that inventively transform into doors, drawers, ships and rockets, and right through to the fluffy, loveable quarks; it is clear Ailie Cohen is a very, very talented puppetmaker and designer. It is a delight to watch the story unfold and the set transform and adapt along with it.

Delivering a simple message; that of avoiding Larry’s ‘very,very busy’ lifestyle and taking the time to embrace the fun and adventure of life, this is an enchanting show not to be missed…..

My mini-reviewer says:I liked it when Larry went into outer space and met the quarks as they were so fluffy. My other favourite bit was the leaves flying out of the desk and getting tangled in Larry.”

Trash Test Dummies                  Underbelly Circus Hub

A trio of loveable clowns takes the audience on an enthralling adventure in this wonderful family circus show.

Starting off slowly, but building momentum, these Australian performers pitch their circus and acrobatic show perfectly for families and young children. They are able to perform an inexhaustible number of tricks with the mundane wheely bin, much to the delight of the crowd. Add some juggling, classic clowning, lots of coloured balls, music and drumming to the mix and it’s clear to see why the audience love it so much. These extremely skilled performers come up with some innovative and imaginative sequences, using slow motion, helium balloons, hats and even ladders to show off their talents. The Trash Test Dummies are not afraid to embrace the unpredictability of what can happen when inviting children to come on stage with them and this is what makes the show extra special- at moments bizarre, mostly eccentric, this show is an hour very well spent!

With all the noise in the theatre, it’s easy to forget the Trash Test Dummies are mostly silent performers ! Everything is indeed awesome if you’re part of their team – get your tickets and join them in taking out the trash…

My mini-reviewers say: “The funniest part was when they were carrying an empty bin and the man who was meant to be in it was actually behind them playing the harmonica.” 

“The best part was when they were drumming the bins with the juggling clubs, and the ladder – when they were using the ladder – that was cool too”

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11 thoughts on “Reviews 2015

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  2. Hi Lizzy
    Many thanks for coming to The Princess and The Frog and for your review, we’re thrilled your children enjoyed our show!
    I just wanted to explain why we charge for our programmes and photos.
    Our dancers have trained for years and I believe very strongly they should be paid decently for their hard work, dedication and skill. Children who attend the show have the opportunity to see real ballet dancers, not just entertainers jumping about in big costumes and, compared to other skilled professionals, their earnings are still very low. Similarly, I pay my backstage, Front of House and office staff fair rates so they don’t have to take second jobs just to survive.
    Producing a show is extremely expensive, especially at a festival, and I often don’t pay myself. I would really rather not charge for the optional extras but small companies often have no other way of making ends meet.
    I do hope you understand.
    With best wishes,
    Orit Sutton
    Artistic Director
    http://www.lets-all-dance.co.uk

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