Reviews 2017

AnimAlphabet The Musical

Pleasance Dome

An all singing, all dancing musical extravaganza featuring lots of colourful animals and puppets. With an educational ‘music note’ based story-line for adults and older children, the beauty is you don’t have to understand the story to enjoy this fantastic show…

Colin the Cockatoo must collect something precious from frog, donkey, alligator, bear, giraffe, and elephant to save Treble Clef island from complete silence and the evil Calando the duck.

The show keeps a good pace, with Colin narrating and each character breaking out into song and dance including Reggae Riddim Frog and Geoff the Geordie Jazz Giraffe. Various puppet choruses, a very large sparkly puppet dragon/ snake and occasional puffs of smoke keeps the visuals interesting.

A highlight for us was Calando, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader if he was a duck. My little one jumped when he first appeared but luckily he kept a distance from the audience as I think there might have been tears otherwise. The slight ‘edge’ that he lent actually prevented her from wanting to join the stage – she was content to sit on my knee – a good technique for preventing stage invasion!

Captivating, colourful and with an ultimate message of friendship, this show filled with catchy songs and plenty of participation is a total winner for children big and small !!

(Written by Katriona Holmes)

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Arr We There Yet ?

Underbelly Circus Hub

An almighty, swashbuckling adventure with three pirates all vying to wear the captain’s hat in this fantastic introduction to circus and acrobatics for kids…

We get to join the three slightly scatter-brained pirates as they prepare to sail the seas in search of treasure and find themselves contending with ghosts, sharks and some surprisingly witty pirate puns instead! Expect plenty of action with some astounding acrobatics, dynamic diabolo sequences, cool cyr wheel and silly slapstick routines. The crows nest provides the perfect setting for some simple tricks and whilst adults may find the narrative a little patchy in places, the children were simply enjoying the spectacle and frenzied drama.

Kids are fully encouraged to shout out and get involved in this spirited and energetic hour of pirate fun !

My mini reviewers say : ”It was funny when they were saying ‘I’m the Captain’, ‘No, I’m the Captain’, ‘No, I’m the Captain’….”

”I liked the ending when they could all be Captains and the seesaw with them doing flips -that was great…”

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Circa : Humans

Underbelly Circus Hub

An amazing hour of watching ten bodies twist, turn, contort, jump, flip, glide, roll and curve in the most awe-inspiring ways…..

As we settle into our seats, the spectacle has already begun, with the performers shedding layers of their clothing, twisting and unfolding acrobatically across the space, filling the stage with their movement….The piece itself is stripped back, raw and intense- allowing each individual performer to showcase their abilities, strength and skill to the full. We are treated to moments filled with energy and dynamics, with all ten cast members on stage, where you hardly know where to look incase you miss something even more phenomenal and then we get moments of more peaceful, gentle routines, where one or two performers take time and space to stretch out and engage fully with the music and emotion of the piece. I loved the contrast and also the moments of humour, allowing us to see each body has limitations and which had my children spending the entire walk home trying to lick their own elbows with equally little success !!!

With spellbinding choreography, this performance had such fluidity and grace and the ten acrobats made it all look so effortless ! With no dialogue, this is perhaps best suited to older children, but I dare anyone to go and not be completely and utterly mesmerised !

My mini reviewers say : ”They couldn’t lick their elbows – it was so funny seeing them try…’ ‘ ”I loved it when she was walking on the heads…and the trapeze too”

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Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams

Underbelly Circus Hub

Beginning with two young boys dreaming of joining the circus, and soon becoming a joyful, uplifting extravaganza of colour and energy, this circus show really stands out from the crowd.

Underbelly’s Circus Hub is hosting an abundance of shows this year, and this one is a total gem; bringing unique skills and performers to the Lafayette big top, all set to an infectious, playful soundtrack. Prepare to be astounded by the acrobatics, with the performers (some of them children themselves) flying seamlessly through the air and making it all look so perfectly effortless ! Add into this mix some crazy contortion-ism, which demonstrates just how strong and talented these performers are and the most spectacular final sequence involving the Chinese pole and you have the definitive show which is perfect for families.

Filling the tent with tons of energy, this is a vibrant and inventive piece of circus which is sure to brighten up your afternoon !

My mini-reviewers say : ”The poles were the best bit, with everyone sliding down so quickly…” ”I liked the girls, who were balancing on top of each other – that was really really amazing”

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Image result for cirkopolisCirkopolis

Pleasance EICC

Sitting in a large room in the EICC I have high expectations for Quebec’s Cirque Éloize’s international sensation, Cirkopolis. And the show doesn’t fail to deliver! Blending dance, circus, theatre and comedy, Cirkopolis is a spectacular, visual feast from start to finish.

Based on the classic film Metropolis, this award-winning company bring the  grey, bureaucratic world to life through the wonderful styling of the costumes, movement and choreography. Making use of the giant projection screen, beautiful animations take the audience on a journey from a grey cityscape, into the deep mechanical workings of the city, finally taking us above it all to the beautiful skyline beyond.

Hungrily we take in the spectacle that is this circus show. We are treated to jaw-dropping skills including Cyr Wheel, German Wheel, Chinese Pole, juggling, diabolo, Bonquine and acrobatics delivered alongside stunning choreography which perfectly frames the action.

Cirque Éloize manage to effortlessly blend story, skills and style into an incredible production, laced with energy and dotted with comedy and fun. If you can see only one circus show this Fringe, make sure that it’s Cirkopolis!

My mini-reviewer said : ”The security guards were funny – they found funny things in people’s bags…”

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Dr. Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never be Caught

Assembly Roxy

Featuring Hippo ‘google-goggles’, a Hippo call button, the invisible Hippo catching blanket and of course a rather elusive Hippo, this is a real pleasure of a show filled with wit and charm !!

We join the highly entertaining and charismatic Dr Zeiffal at the Hippo institute and quickly learn there has been a Hippo sighting in Edinburgh and that we can all get to become her assistants in helping her experience her first actual wild Hippo sighting. Dr. Zeiffal is a wonderful character filled with warmth and enthusiasm and guides this absorbing performance with ease! Donning our ‘google goggles’, we catch a glimpse of the cheeky Hippo resulting in much giggling and laughter in the room as Dr. Zeiffal and the Hippo chase each other in circles all around the stage and venue itself……With loads of interaction and joining in, this is such a fun, creative show, perfect for children and allowing them plenty of space to let their imaginations run loose!

Quirky, inventive and lively…it’s well worth getting down to Assembly Roxy and assisting Dr Zeiffal in her lifetime quest !

My mini-reviewers say  ”I liked pressing the hippo call button and liked it when Dr Zeiffal was chasing the hippo”  ”I liked how they got the audience involved, and I got to go on stage twice !!”

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Eaten

Summerhall

What if your food started talking back to you ? This amusing idea is brought to life and explored thoroughly and with hilarious consequences in this charming and thought provoking piece…

Writer, and performer Mamoru Iriguchi, plays Lionel the lion, wearing an ingenious costume, which reveals many layers and surprises during the show ! Lionel has a dream of being vegetarian, but he soon understands that daisies will not satisfy him and his hunger leads him to eat Mamoru – who luckily for us is left intact and can converse happily with his predator. The two become friends and with their conversation lead us on a journey through the digestive system and beyond. Children in the audience howl with laughter as we meet Dr. Poo and attend his ‘Pooniversity’. The cycles of the food chain are examined and we are invited to ask questions along the way…

Spreading the message of ‘we are what we eat’, this is an inventive, unique and educational piece of theatre that both adults and children will enjoy immensely.

My mini reviewers say : ”Dr.Poo was the funniest….with his Pooniversity.” ” The best bit was when Dr.Poo was pooped out of Lionel…it was hilarious”

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Happy Birthday Mia

Paradise in Augustines

We are greeted by a colourful sleeping Mia surrounded by presents in different sized boxes. Over the course of the 35 minute show an excited Mia finds out what is in these boxes. A cheerful soundtrack accompanies her discoveries.

Mia is a very friendly, smiley character who doesn’t say many words but engages the babies and small children by inviting them to interact with the things she finds inside the boxes.

Towards the end of the show members of the audience are invited on stage to get involved. By this time my 13 month old had become comfortable in Mia’s presence and happily joined the stage to touch and play.

Many shows don’t offer enough time at the end for interaction with performers/ props and other children, which in my experience is the part that mine enjoys the most after she has warmed up to the space. Mia allowed plenty of time for this and seemed quite comfortable with the elements of chaos that free roaming under 5s can create.

This is a lovely low key show, which whilst it may not offer so much for the adults, kept my little one very happy indeed.                                         (Written by Katriona Holmes)

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How To Be A Kid

Roundabout – Summerhall

Molly is twelve, and being twelve is hard enough without negotiating life with a highly energetic and annoying little brother called Joe and a mum who spends the day in bed, feeling sad after Nan has died….and so super-girl is born. Super-girl can cook, can wash up, can look after Joe and get them both to school in time…super-girl can manage anything….until….

This brilliant fast-paced production deals with this challenging topic sensitively and looks at family relationships and what can happen when people can’t cope. Using the impressive space of the unique Roundabout venue we are taken along on the ‘serious’ adventure that Molly and her brother Joe go on….there are plenty of laughs along the way and a touch of dancing too with a catchy Taylor Swift pop soundtrack!

Acknowledging that family relationships are complicated and exposing our feelings is tricky, this dynamic performance takes you along on the highs and lows that life can throw at you, and it’s well worth the ride.

My mini reviewer said ”I liked dancing at the end, and when Joe got a free Happy Meal – that was brilliant !”

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Mavis Sparkle

Pleasance

With her cheeky cuckoo clock, a mystery pet called Spike and her adorable and rather impressive cleaning trolley, it’s hard not to love Mavis Sparkle !

Sprinkled with magic tricks (and just a touch of glitter); this is a gentle, enchanting show which is sure to appeal to little ones. We meet Mavis on her last day at work and she introduces us to her family -‘the Sparkles’, taking us through some of their family adventures in the beloved campervan Connie! Mavis is now looking for her next adventure and finding the courage to follow her dreams.

Thoughtfully done, it’s the little touches that add the extra sparkle to this show. We are treated to delightful shadow puppetry, clever illusions, a smattering of tricks and all this with the hint of real magic in the air!

My mini reviewers say : ”I liked being dusted…” ”It was awesome, and really cute meeting Spike”

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Me and My Bee

Pleasance

”When I say ‘bee’ you say ‘party’ ”……this innovative show invites you to an actual party party (with hats, party poppers and games of course), which we soon discover is actually a political party disguised as a show!

The plight of the humble bumble bee is explored in this fun and informative show as we join Josie and Greta in their bid to share the life story of their friend Joe – a (not so) small bee who has lost his flower- so that we may learn about their hard work and importance in the world. We discover astounding facts about bees, sing songs, meet our neighbours and ultimately join the political party in their quest to ‘save the bees and save the world’. Packed full of humour, with plenty of participation, dance moves and a cute party bag; this colourful show will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted. It was a joy!

Energetic, entertaining and enlightening….this show is the absolute bees knees !!

My mini reviewer says : ”I had so much fun at the Bee party, I liked the Bee when he was dancing…buzz buzz buzz buzz”

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Morgan and West: More Magic for Kids !

Underbelly Med Quad

The dazzling and dapper duo have returned and bring us even more fun and mesmerising magic !! With a new show for this year’s festival, Morgan and West provide us with their familiar and quick witted humour alongside some new dazzling tricks and illusions…

Expect the unexpected they say, and with a show featuring lemons, umbrellas, eggs, melons, escapology and even some ventriloquism that’s exactly what we were captivated by ! With plenty of audience participation along the way, this show is pitched perfectly for families.

A room full of giggling children and seeing their astounded faces is enough to convince that this is magic at it’s very best …

My mini reviewers say : ”It was really funny, I laughed my head off…..” ”I liked the eggs, and the baby banana best ”

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Oskar’s Amazing Adventure

Gilded balloon

Oskar the puppy is bored, everyone is sleeping and he has got a severe case of cabin fever and just wants to play, so he fearlessly heads out into the forest and that’s where his real adventure begins….

Combining brilliant storytelling, beautiful handmade stuffed animals and plenty of songs and actions for us all to join in with, this is a charming and thoughtful piece of theatre for younger children. The shorter length of the performance lends itself very well to a younger audience, who all sat fully engaged and captivated throughout. The simple, hand painted set, added a certain charm and the Alpine story, with a sprinkling of snow, following Oskar on his quest to find a friend to play with was pitched just right. We even get to meet a marmot who becomes friends with Oskar and helps him escape from the hungry Fox ! Natasha Granger (the author’s daughter) keeps the pace flowing with her energetic storytelling and impressive portrayal of Granny searching for her lost puppy !

Furry friends, foxes and fun for all the family, this delightful show is a real treat for everyone…

My mini reviewer says : ”I liked the twit-two owl and the digging song”

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Ruby Redfort

Assembly

Ruby Redfort is no ordinary thirteen year old, she’s also a special agent, working for Spectrum Agency, and busy breaking secret codes and solving mysteries along the way…

This adaptation of the popular Lauren Child book is perfect for older children (suggests age 7+), and especially for fans of the book who will already be familiar with Ruby, her best friend Clancy and Hitch; the impressive butler, no sorry, make that the impressive House Manager ! With a slightly confusing and slow start, the performance builds up a good pace once the stage is set and the mission revealed. We follow Ruby as she is introduced to the world of Spectrum; as she then negotiates the double life she is about to lead as a child spy, also being accountable to her best friend Clancy who obviously wants to know everything that Ruby is up to and then on each step of her journey as she thwarts the criminal masterminds set to steal the museum’s new showcase jade statue! The cast make excellent use of the small space and using coloured light poles we are transported from Ruby’s home to the underground network and epicenter of the Spectrum secret agency! A talented cast of three also keep the audience engaged, with Clancy adding the perfect amount of humour to balance out the action thriller plot line.

Cool, calm and confident – Ruby Redfort is a pleasure to be introduced to, and the added satisfaction of unraveling a mystery makes this even more enjoyable !!

My mini reviewer said :’‘It was really funny when Clancy was pretending to be a waiter doing room service…”

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The Giant Jam Sandwich

Pleasance

Your ears will be ringing with the catchy, interactive ‘thump it, bump it, bang it about…’ baking song, integral to this creative adaptation of the well loved tale of the folk in Itching Down and their rather unfortunate wasp infestation…

The book is wonderfully brought to life in this stage show by New Perspectives Theatre Companythe three actors brilliantly convey the handful of characters in the book, and along with some colourful songs and quick changes of hats, the audience is introduced to the likes of Mr. Bap the baker, Farmer Seed and of course, those pesky little wasps !! Plenty of interaction keeps the younger audience members fully entertained as they join in songs, search for hidden items under their seats and gasp in wonder as the enormous loaf of bread is eventually revealed.

Kazoos, helicopters, wasps and of course lots and lots of jam – this shows packs it all in, and is one sandwich that’s well worth tasting !!!

My mini reviewers say : ”It was so funny when the wasps were stuck in the jam….” ”When the bread was being cut and the most huge slice fell down – that was amazing…”

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The Listies make You LOL

Pleasance

Rich and Matt have returned to the festival, and boy are we glad they did !! Bringing us all along on their madcap, chaotic and quick witted road trip …..

If your kids like potty humour (which kid doesn’t!?) then they will LOVE the Listies! The kids (and big kids) were literally falling off their seats with laughter. The sketches were full of silliness and high energy that had the whole audience gripped. The Listies aren’t afraid of the unpredictability of interacting with this audience, which ended up leading to some memorable and unique moments ! There is no hiding in this audience- you will at some point be involved in alien attacks, loo roll firing or dirty underpants flying around the place.

Random, rollicking and rowdy….this show is a winner for big kids and little ones alike….absolutely unmissable!

My mini reviewers say : ”This is the best show ever. I liked the whole part of the car journey and their dirty pants….yuck !”   ”100 stars for The Listies – it was AWESOME ”

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The Ping-Pong Ball Effect

Pleasance

Standing in the queue I begin talking to a family of four. This is their second time coming see ‘Ping Pong Ball Effect’ because they loved it so much the first time. “It’s a show that keeps both adults and kids entertained”, says the dad. My hopes are high as I head into the Pleasance’s main auditorium.

And I’m not disappointed. ‘Ping Pong Ball Effect’ a lovely, upbeat show with live music, energetic routines and compelling skills from the cast of St Petersburg’s famous Youth Circus. And ‘effects’ certainly feature heavily in the show; from musical looping, to a drum firing smoke rings into the auditorium, from illusions to a final downpour of…you guessed it…ping pong balls.

The cast of young performers kept the audiences totally engaged throughout with inspiring skills including tumbling routines, ping pong ball juggling and a duo cyr wheel and hula hoop act. Much of which illicit whoops and cheers from the enraptured audience.

The family I met were right! Make sure you see Ping Pong Ball Effect at least once…maybe even twice.

My mini-reviewer said ”I loved when all the ping pong balls came on stage….”

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The Road That Wasn’t There

Assembly Roxy

”This is a story about a girl who followed a map off the edge of the world”… And what a story it is !! – compelling, magical, utterly enchanting and with just enough of a dark edge to entirely captivate the audience….

Gabriel has received word that his mother isn’t very well back in his hometown of Otago. He heads home and finds his mother – Maggie, in a bit of a pickle. Maps cover the entire house, doorknobs have disappeared and creatures reside in the fridge. Slowly, whilst Gabriel is sorting out the surrounding mess, Maggie begins to share her story, her story of a path, of a path that she once took that lead her on an incredible adventure…

Using a set crafted from maps and cardboard boxes, this intriguing tale weaves it’s magic through shadow puppetry, intricate marionettes and haunting songs. Trick of the light Theatre once again bring their hypnotic storytelling to the festival and you’d be foolish not to sit yourself down and watch the mystery unfold.

My mini reviewers say : ”It was funny when Maggie was gardening in her knickers and chasing the postman in her knickers too!” ”It surprised me when he jumped out of the box”

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The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck

Underbelly Circus Hub

The classic tales of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck are narrated and sung by the award winning soprano and actress Michelle Todd and the Children’s Classic Concerts Festival Ensemble. Music by Stephen McNeff, adapted by Adrian Mitchell and MC Jimmy Jewell.

The children are encouraged to sit close to the action in a story-telling fashion and each child is given an activity crossword sheet to complete with the chance of winning prizes in a draw. Michelle Todd, dressed in Peter Rabbit/Beatrix Potter Victorian style costume and the six musicians deliver a warm and enchanting performance with catchy repeating rhymes. Todd’s solo performance of all the characters was well delivered through various accents, you will love the Scottish Mr MacGregor!

The introduction of each instrument to the audience is a real treat for the children, they hear the violin, clarinet, guitar, flute, cello and percussion. Children are invited to give their best duck impressions halfway through which helps to keep them engaged.

My mini reviewers said :  “I liked this show because it wasn’t scary, I was worried about Mr Tod being too scary. Normally you don’t have live music so this was really interesting.”     ”I really liked the waddling and blackberry songs the best.”

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Transit

Assembly Hall

From the very start the high energy of Transit has the audience absolutely spell-bound.

 A giant wall of flight cases dominates the stage. A young woman rolls a case out and opens it to reveal five men squished inside. This light slapstick and silliness continues as the six performers of Flip FabriQue from Quebec take the audience on a whistle-stop tour of high circus skills and acrobatic prowess. The flight cases and airline theme is soon left behind but the company transit a vast number of circus skills all delivered with flair and style; from a beautiful synchronised LED juggling piece, and a flying straps routine where the performer is lifted above the crowd to acrobatic tricks performed on a trampoline covered in brightly coloured balls. 

We certainly get a strong sense of the company’s friendship and familiarity through practical jokes and tight routines. But as the show progresses a glaring gender divide becomes more defined. The five men boisterously demonstrate incredible abilities including diabolo, acrobatics and juggling yet the lone women works only in hula hoop. My frustration continues to grow as the men’s skills drive testosterone filled competitions and shows of bravado and when given hula hoops, the men parody being sexy, in my mind, undermining the value of that skill.  

The cast confess what they would do if this were their last show together. While two of them men would like to do as many skills as possible in a minute and another would like all the ladies in the audience to throw their pants at him, the woman declares that she is pregnant and leaving the company. A confusing twist that further made me question the gender roles being displayed here. 

As wonderful as this show may be, it does not offer the gender balance and role models that you can find in other circus shows in the Fringe this year.

My mini-reviewer said ”My favourite bit was the when all the balls fell on the trampoline and then they bounced in them.”

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TUTU: Dance In All Its Glory

Pleasance

Tutu charms the audience from the very beginning; with a playful sequence in the incredible bell shaped tulle leggings, which are recognizable from posters dotted around the city. They move cheerfully with the evidently technically skilled men inside them.

Later, after an impressive episode of solo point work, as the music is ending, the dancer stomps off the stage with little grace or dignity. This sets the scene- there will be strong, talented performances that make you marvel but all the frustration that clearly lives in every dancer’s career or perception of, is turned into something to be laughed at. The six male performers successfully portray the different dance pieces into an almost sketch style show with some beautiful choreography and vision by Phillippe Lafeuille.

The children were engaged throughout and this was aided by the wonderful costume design by Corinne Petitpierre which brought each sequence to life and enhanced each individual character’s narrative. Her designs created bold colours for the show and bridged into inventive set design in places. My children especially liked the large tulle ducks which played out a joyfully daft interpretation of Swan Lake, creating much laughter from the audience. Comedic timing and some great facial expressions had everyone giggling even more. The slapstick moments were handled tastefully and didn’t overbear, enough for the kids to love it without it all feeling too silly.

My mini reviewers say : ”I liked being able to understand all the jokes and appreciate the skill.” ” I thought it was so funny and I loved watching a funny, not a serious dance show”

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