Reviews 2022

All reviews written by Lizzy Treacy unless stated otherwise.

A Ladder To The Stars

Gilded Balloon Teviot

A Ladder to the stars is a delightful story of a little girl who makes a birthday wish to dance with the stars. The audience is taken on a journey to make this happen, including a magical trip to outer space to talk to the Sun, who colludes with the universe to provide them with the solution needed to make this dream come true. 

So much care has been taken throughout this performance to really tune into a child’s mind – what they find funny and what fuels their imagination to keep them invested in the story. The theatre was filled with children’s laughter throughout, and the performers were exceptionally gifted in holding each child’s attention. From the moment we walked through the door to take our seats, effort was made to chat to every child, creating relationships between the actors and their audience before the show began. My 4 year old loved this, and even I had a tear in my eye at the end as I realised a deeper meaning to the narrative. 

My mini reviewer said : “I loved the little girl and the granny, they were so funny and I loved that the universe was so sparkly” 

(Written by Emma May)

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Summerhall

We are told that within this with curious tale there is no lesson, ‘so don’t go looking for one’…

And so we are whisked away into this imaginative and intimate hour of captivating storytelling, following Pelayo and Elisanda’s experiences after the arrival of a peculiarly old man with enormous wings who they naturally set up residence in the chicken coop. Beautifully handcrafted sets, innovative lighting and clever projections help weave this fantastical tale along and we were completely enchanted. Chickens, spidery ladies and paper towels added a depth of humour and warmth, keeping younger audience members fully engaged and a haunting soundscape accompanies the storytelling and adds to the evocative and immersive nature of this show.

With just enough of a dark edge to keep us totally engrossed, its highly recommended you take a seat and get settled in….

My mini-reviewers said:  ‘’..I liked the chickens…they were funny..’’

‘ I really really enjoyed it, totally worth the early start…’

Beats On Pointe

Assembly

There’s hardly time to take a breath as an audience member watching this show and I can’t imagine how the performers do it! This show is filled with energy, passion and some seriously fantastic dance skills…

Beginning with a competitive ballet versus hip hop dance off, we quickly see performers blend both genres and what results is truly amazing. We are treated to incredible musical medleys accompanying the dances, and this is a fast-paced show packing a lot of punches. As if the highly skilled dance performances aren’t enough on their own, we also see moments of superb beatboxing, slow motion hilarity, body percussion, singing and a smattering of acrobatics. Each routine includes a different set of bright, colourful and sometimes even luminous LED enhanced outfits that enhance the entire spectacle and delights younger members of the audience. Stand out moments included a moonwalking en pointe ballet dancer and a break-dancer who can spin on his head for what feels like forever!!

The energy radiating from the stage is infectious and it’s clear to see how the performers love what they’re doing as much as you’ll enjoy watching….

My mini- reviewer said: ‘..I loved all the outfits, especially the ones that lit up, and the part with the ballet dancers and the male dancer in the pink tutu was hilarious…’

Boom

Underbelly

Emotive, energetic, playful and poignant…this circus takes you through a whirlwind of emotions and is seriously impressive..

There were times when there was so much going on up on stage it was difficult to know where to look  – so much talent was on display. Boom is based on real events where performers met just after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, in March 2022, and its incredible what they’ve produced together to share here in Edinburgh. The emotive storytelling is effortlessly weaved into this performance, not about war, but about connection, and friendship, humour and warmth. From their first moment of meeting, through to hugging, to shared language and ultimately finding the bliss in doing what you love and what makes you happy….this show is a delight from start to finish.

Delivering a powerful message of resilience and hope, sharing time to reflect with these young performers is a joy.

My mini-reviewer said : ..’I liked it when they were all hugging, and the clown – he was funny, and the snowball fight..’

Brave Space

Underbelly Circus Hub

Each year in the fringe, there is one show we discover that has a little something extra, something unique, something memorable, and this year, Brave Space has them all…

Inviting you into their immersive space, seven female performers seamlessly and gracefully guide us into the intimate space of their parachute fort, each act getting tantalisingly near to us….this is a show where getting up close and personal with the performers is a necessity and a privilege. Lying on my back watching two acrobatics twist and tumble on a trapeze over my head, while their shadows spun around the cosy den was a total joy. We are witness to beautifully calm sequences of balance, aerial, cyr wheel, hula hooping and much more; whilst we feel more like friends than audience as various people are invited up to help hold, balance or pull pieces of equipment along. Limited lighting and a muted colour palette adds to the evocative and emotional depth of this performance…..a magical start to anyone’s day.    

Visually stunning, with serene and graceful performances, Brave Space is an oasis amongst the hustle and bustle just outside – create time and space to allow yourself to be fully absorbed…

My mini- reviewer said : “.. the parachute Fort was really cool and I liked being inside it..I also liked joining in.”

Circus Abysinnia : Tulu

Underbelly

Beginning with a recording from the moment Deraru Tulu, the first African woman, won Olympic gold and ending with an incredible extravaganza involving a giant swing – this circus is jam packed, joyful fun….

We were astounded by some skilful contortionism, amazing fire juggling, acrobatic sequences that were absolutely breath-taking, intimate aerial and acro balance performances and intense roller-skating sequences that truly made us gasp!! You could sense the collective anticipation of the audience, waiting to see what awe-inspiring act could possibly follow each perfectly executed segment. Part of the added joy of this show was the energy radiating out from the performers, as they danced and sang along to the playful soundtrack filling the big top.   

Guaranteed to brighten anyone’s afternoon – this is high-octane, high-energy circus that you really don’t want to miss…

My mini reviewers said: ‘..I REALLY liked the big swing, when it went all the way round was awesome..’

‘..the roller-skating bit was immense…it was nerve-wracking to watch !

Dinosaurs And All That Rubbish

Assembly

Balancing both an environmental message and lots of fun, this show is sure to delight younger audiences and their accompanying adults alike !

This show was a massive hit with my mini-reviewer, and also with me! We hadn’t read the book before seeing the performance, but that didn’t matter at all. The actors were fantastic, and the show was joyful while still punching a serious message about our communal need to look after our planet so that it can become a paradise again. 

There was live music throughout, and the songs were very catchy and beautifully written. At one point you are watching a dinosaur playing the keyboard, next it was a moon playing the clarinet … there were lots of surprises in this show! Not only that, but the cast all genuinely looked like they were having a great time, as were the audience. 

This is a really fun and engaging family show, and I would highly recommend it whether you are a dinosaur fan or not. 

My mini reviewer said : “I loved all the singing and the dinosaurs playing instruments. No-one should throw their rubbish on the ground so we can protect the earth”  

(Written by Emma May)

Dragons and Mythical Beasts

Underbelly

We LOVED Dragons and Mythical Beasts, the venue in McEwan hall was perfect for creating a mystical, magical feeling. 

We were introduced to Dave the knight, who took us on a spell binding journey to becoming heroes. Engaging the audience with ‘has anyone lost a tooth recently’ saw lots of hands shoot up and little ones were delighted to meet Aerwyn, the tooth fairy !! This resulted in a warm feeling of the audience identifying with each other.

We learned loads of fun facts and myths about unicorns, dragons and beasts. The show was great at getting the audience involved and some mini heroes were picked from their seats to help Dave along the way. The puppetry was incredible and it was easy and exciting to be swept along on this enchanting adventure. The anticipation of what would be coming next kept us on the edge of our seats! 

Finishing up with a lovely strong message that we are all heroes and we can overcome doubts and fears no matter what – this is an adventure little ones will love to be taken along on.

My mini reviewer said: I liked the funny noises Aerwyn the tooth fairy made when she was upset with a bad tooth’

(Written by Noreen McCafferty)

Fashion Spies

Assembly

Fashion Spies is a hidden gem of a show, nestled just outside George Square Gardens, it feels like the spy adventure is already beginning as you enter the atmospheric red box venue…

Proudly bearing our spy name badges, audience participation is mandatory on this mission, which was loads of fun from beginning to end. Three tie-dye boiler suit clad performers accompanied us on this fast paced, choose your own adventure style show, full of fashion themed puns as the Secret Agency Service (SAS) investigate the theft of a variety of extremely valuable fashion items from fashion weeks around the world. Highlights are some catchy musical numbers, the hilarious Madame Linguine and the somewhat bizarre but highly entertaining inclusion of foxes! (You’ll just have to go see the show if you want to find out why !) ….

Fashionistically fantastic, full of colour, silliness, foxes and interactive fun….

My mini reviewer said: ..’My favourite bit was Stacey the fashion fox…and getting to join in with the cardboard tubes’..

Human Fountains

C-Venues

Oh my goodness ! Only in Edinburgh at the fringe would you get a show where the three performers main talent is squirting water out their mouths in a variety of directions, colours and themes…

This is not a show for the easily squeamish though and I must say the inclusion of raw egg almost had me gagging, but that aside, it’s highly entertaining. An hour is a long time to sustain a variety of tricks centred around essentially spitting water, but the three performers admirably and creatively turned their hand to lots of physical comedy, clowning, hilarious audience participation and a very very silly scene involving grapes which the mini-reviewers particularly enjoyed! Safely stowed away in the thoughtfully provided ponchos we felt brave enough to sit in the front row…

Definitely a show that sticks in your mind afterwards, and you’ll be wanting to try all the tricks at home too…lots of quirky, watery fun !

My mini reviewers said : ‘I really liked the coloured water…and the show encouraged me to spit more at my brother – in a good way !’

‘..the bit with the grapes was super funny and the gun fight scene !’

Magical Bones: Soulful Magic (12+)

Assembly

‘No matter how impossible the circumstances may be, there is always hope’…..Magical Bones shares these wise words before immensely impressing us with a bit of mind boggling escapism..

This is an hour of incredible, imaginative magic, including some stunning card tricks and to the relief of the audience member involved, making a destroyed driver’s licence reappear intact! Magical Bones delivers everything in his cool, calm manner….sprinkling in some break dancing moves whilst he solves a reubiks cube to further showcase the plethora of skills he has ! Even a simple arm rolling exercise leaves the entire audience speechless and I’ll admit, we tried to work it out for a long time at home, and still couldn’t!! This is the extra magic of the show, leaving us guessing and the tantalising feeling of wanting to know his secrets but also relishing in the bewilderment.

Leaving us properly astonished, and with plenty to talk about….give in to the curiosity and check it out for yourselves !

My mini reviewer said : ‘..the end trick was amazing, I still don’t know how he did it !’

Manual Cinema Presents: Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster

Underbelly

Wowsers !! What a total treat of a show…jam packed full of creativity and talent, be it paper cut outs, furry puppets, illustrations or an endearingly quirky live soundtrack and songs…

Adapted from Mo Willem’s much-loved books, Manual Cinema knit their uniquely inventive skills together to present this story of a monster struggling with being scary and big life decisions surrounding friendships. Leonardo is a terrible monster, and who desperately wants to scare the tuna salad out of someone…until he meets the most scarediest kid in town that is. One visit to see this show may not be enough as you’ll want to watch both the big screen and the artists below it as they beautifully create the story before your eyes….

Filled with wonder, humour and oodles of warmth, you are sure to be charmed by this real gem of a show.

My Mini reviewer said: ‘ I liked how they used paper, toys and themselves to make the story – it was super creative…’

Muse

Assembly

Flip Fabrique are back, and this time they are exploring what it means to be a woman…

Weaving their unique magic into this hour-long show, Flip Fabrique use all sort of incredible ways to explore gender roles and stereotypes and astound us along the way. Breathtaking acrobatics, stunning aerial performances, evocative live music, intricate diablo tricks and a giant trampoline are squeezed into this performance which left us wanting more. A central piece of pole performance set to a soundtrack of Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’, was a total stand out moment….and this coupled with the parts of humour and playfulness embody what an exceptional company Flip Fabrique truly are.  Boundaries are once again pushed and played with as performers soared over our heads and balanced on the edges – resulting in audible gasps from those in the front rows!

Proving that whether they’re wearing a tutu, football helmet, high heels or anything else inbetween- bodies are astonishingly amazing – We left as awestruck as ever!

My mini-reviewers say :

…the giant trampoline was amazing, incredible tricks and flips…”

” It was all SO amazing, and I loved the two women on the trapeze up over our heads – best show EVER.”

Image result for five stars

Sean Choolburra: Didj and Dance ! 

Sean Choolburra is an incredibly talented and very natural storyteller. I had thought that my 4 year old may have been a little young to sit through this show, but that was not the case. He was absolutely engrossed in the traditional aboriginal stories, watching their dances and learning about their crafts. The didgeridoo music Sean played at various times throughout the performance was hypnotic and had everyone tapping their toes, 

This show is such a wonderful cultural experience with plenty of Sean’s humour in it too. There were many opportunities for children to join him on stage for some dancing, and even the chance to have a go at making a fire using the traditional way of his community. Sean was also very happy to come outside the venue at the end of the show to chat to everyone, answer questions, and for any of the kids to get photos with him in his traditional dress.  

It may also be worth noting for any Bluey fans that Sean does the voice of Maynard in the children’s TV series!  

My mini reviewer said “I loved getting to play the click sticks and watching the cool crocodile and dragonfly dances” 

(Written by Emma May)

Splash Test Dummies 

There is a reason why these guys are seasoned favourites of the fringe! Back with their aquatic themed silliness – Splash Test Dummies is a totally bonkers, fun show full of audience participation, slapstick comedy and splattered with some pretty impressive circus skills! These are some very talented performers, both circus wise and generally as children’s entertainers. 

I would however say that this show is maybe more appropriate for kids 6 and up, as my 4 year old found the level of audience interaction and the spraying with water pistols a bit much. Saying that, if you were to sit at the very back you are mostly “safe” … mostly! 

My mini reviewer said: “My favourite bit was watching the man in the giant hula hoop spinning upside down and when they made the balls pop out of their mouths and their bottoms…” 

(Written by Emma May)

The Adventures of Bo Peep

Assembly

The Adventures of Bo Peep was a big hit with my mini reviewer! It is a very gentle puppet show which would be well suited for those who may get over stimulated by many of the fringe productions. 

A beautiful simple story which introduces you to little Bo Peep and takes you on her journey to find her sheep. But these are no ordinary sheep, one is a unicorn sheep, one a superhero sheep, one loves flowers and another trees. The show had a wonderful mix of storytelling, audience interaction, and singing. It was a feast for the senses too, with careful attention paid to details such as the smells, touch and sounds of the farm, and which the audience gets to experience throughout. 

The puppetry itself was captivating and set design was cleverly adapted to the story. There was even a lovely shadow puppet scene which my wee one found totally magical. 

Immerse yourselves in the sights, smells and feel of the farm in this imaginative tale…

My mini reviewer said:  “My favourite bit was when the superhero sheep flew over the bridge and I got to feel the magic river water in my hands” 

(Written by Emma May)

The Gruffalo, the Giant and the Mermaid with Julia Donaldson

Underbelly

A packed audience suggested that enthusiasm for this show was high and it’s easy to see why – Julia Donaldson’s books have been enthralling kids and parents alike for a generation.

This show, performed by Julia herself alongside her family, is an absolute delight and it’s easy to see that the folk onstage revel in these stories as much as the audience. By way of music, puppetry and various nifty costume changes, several of Donaldson’s stories come to life, recited by performers and audience alike, most of these parents having most likely read these stories often enough to commit them to memory.

It was surely a good sign that the Highway Rat song was firmly lodged in my head all day! A thorough recommendation. Oh…and bring your copy of the Gruffalo down as Julia will also host a book signing after the show !

My mini-reviewer said: ‘I loved the Highway Rat song and the scarecrow story the best. I can’t believe I saw the REAL Gruffalo ! ”

(Written by Rob May )

The Listies : Hamlet – Prince of Skidmark

House of Oz

The Listies are back and we couldn’t be more delighted…even with the hazardous element of ‘the brown plague’….

Right from ushering us expertly into our seats, Matt and Rich keep us utterly entertained and the laughter is infectious. This is Hamlet but not quite as you’ve known it – ghosts, alien pirates, space nunneries, neon madness and zombies all appear in this madcap hour of riotous fun, and of course an obligatory list or two. Embracing the unpredictability of interacting with the audience yields some memorable Shakespearean insults – and spectacular future career choices. This is an hour of total belly laughter inducing fun and is just the tonic we all need after the past few years….

Once again an hour is just waaaaaayyy too short……absolutely unmissable….

My mini-reviewers said:  ‘..Sooooooooooooo happy the Listies are back, they are AMAZING…’

‘..I liked it when Matt and Livvy got to do what they want….it was the best !’

The Smeds and The Smoos

The Smeds and The Smoos

Pleasance

‘Joy and jam and jumping’….I challenge anyone seeing this show to not leave singing this catchy tune ! Tall Stories have once again worked their magic and The Smeds and the Smoos is an enchanting performance that all children and parents will undoubtedly fall in love with…

Visually, the production, set and costumes were probably the best I have seen in any kids show so far this fringe. The actors were incredibly engaging, involving the audience throughout their journey without overegging this participation. The music was fun and uplifting, and the puppets brought a magical touch to the story and were very true to Axel Scheffler’s style of drawing. All in all, this show was a beautiful adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s much loved book with an important message for all children at the end. 

My little one danced and clapped most of the way through and we both left the theatre singing … Like I said – it’s very catchy!

My mini-reviewer said : ..I liked the rocket ships, and all the slime….it was funny ‘

(Written by Emma May)

The Ultimate Pickle

Roundabout – Summerhall

Dill says she doesn’t much like adventures, but in this fantastically immersive production by Paines Plough, she manages to convince us, and her goldfish Jack Tornado otherwise….

Once again, Paines Plough bring their dynamic storytelling to the Roundabout venue where the incredible physicality of the performers and use of the unique circular space is put to full effect – we are whisked along to an attic bedroom, a block of flats, a school racetrack and much much more. The three performers seamlessly and energetically fill the space and take on a myriad of roles. Exploring themes of transition and loss, this production has a lot of heart – and a rather hungry and loveable wolf! The imaginative and emotionally complex world of childhood is brilliantly conveyed in this touching tale.

Dealing with big emotions, big imaginations and big relationships…the ultimate pickle is an engaging and captivating adventure, that like Dill, you are sure to really enjoy !!

My mini reviewer said : ‘I really liked the story and the start with Grand Ted and the stars…’