ED2012 Children's Shows ED2012 Columns ED2012 Week3 Edition

Small stuff at the Fringe 2

By | Published on Saturday 25 August 2012

Cecily Udderbelly

ThreeWeeks Co-Editor Caro 
Moses and our youngest reviewer Cecily take in some more shows 
designed for little people.

Over the last week, Cecily and I decided to take in a few more shows, with the aim of recommending a solid programme of child-friendly events for the last few days of the Festival, and in particular the last weekend. Because we assume (though can’t guarantee) that at least a few intrepid southerners will be making their way north en famille to spend their bank holiday weekend at the Fringe. So, the minute we got back to Edinburgh (we had to go back down south ourselves for a while, not least because it was Cecily’s birthday and we had to have parties and presents) we set out on an intrepid show-watching trail.

One of the first shows we caught was ‘Tiddler And Other Terrific Tales’ at Underbelly Bristo Square. This one was always on the list of to-sees, because, like practically any child under five, Cecily is very accustomed to the work of children’s author Julia Donaldson. Also, it was by Scamp Theatre, who did one of Cecily’s bestest shows from last year, ‘Stick Man’. As we (well, I) expected, the show was slick, well performed, and inventively staged; of the tales covered, Cecily liked ‘Smartest Giant’ the best, and I agree that I found it the most cohesive. It was quite pricey, though, especially if you are taking the whole family.

Next up was ‘Our Island’, a collaboration by Fringe veterans Kipper Tie and I Theatre of Singapore. Cecily was full of questions during this one, and I sort of wondered if she might be the wrong age for it; the show is delivered without recourse to the English language; three strangers, all speaking different types of gobbledygook find themselves on an island, and have to learn to communicate and live with one another. I thought this worked brilliantly for toddlers (the small child in front of us gurgled with laughter from the start) and for older children, who were clearly prepared to watch, and able to relate to the theme of learning to co-operate with others. That said, despite all the questions (“what are they saying, mummy?”) Cecily clearly enjoyed it. Last night, at bed time, she said “please can we go and see ‘Our Island’ again next year?”.

We’ve been spending a fair amount of time these last couple of Fringes at the Pleasance Courtyard, because while I know that not all the good children’s shows are on at the Pleasance, they do have a very useful corner in the children’s area at The Green, where Cecily can play whilst I meet grown up friends for coffee. One day this week I ran into an old friend there, and he urged us to see a Pleasance show, ‘The Golden Cowpat’. Now, I’m not a big fan of poo, but Cecily felt this was a show we ought to see, so I acquiesced. It was nicer than I expected, to be honest; I always assume that children’s poo shows – yes, I consider them a genre – will be kind of gross. But this one was an almost-charming (well, come on, it’s about poo) tale delivered by a sweetly funny duo, one on story-telling duty, the other on music. The story-teller is engaging, and slickly moves from one episode and character to the next, though this will require your child to concentrate a little in order to follow the storyline. Cecily managed that, but I don’t think she would have last year. She is the kind of child who finds it hard to keep still.

If you are/own a child that won’t sit still, then ‘Flamenco For Kids’ with the lovely Ricardo Garcia et al might be just the thing. Well, there’s a little sitting at the start, but mine was easily drawn in by the display of music and dramatic dancing that began the show. The best thing, though, especially if you’re keen and confident, is that you get to go up on stage and learn a flamenco dance; Cecily was initially slightly daunted by learning the different elements of this, but by the end, was starting to really get it and released her (not so) inner show-off. She also very much enjoyed putting on her little flamenco frock for the children’s performance at the end. “My best bit was when we danced in our dresses”, she says. “Mine was red, with black spots on it”.

Over the weekend, we saw two great shows at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall. First up was ‘The Jabberwocky’. Cecily had been handed a flyer for this a couple of days previously, and was very excited to see it. Her anticipation was rewarded with a humorously delivered take on the classic poem, in which the bright and bushy cast threw themselves into being inanimate as well as animate objects (though to be fair, they were animated when being inanimate too) and offered a pleasing degree of interaction with the children. Cecily raced on stage when given the chance to participate, and, when encouraged to chuck props on stage too, shouted “this is so much fun. I LOVE This show!”

The second show at Surgeon’s Hall was ‘East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon’ (pictured), and although this saw much less participation, it still managed to silence Cecily, and keep her almost sitting still until the end. The story is very much of the ‘Beauty And The Beast’ scheme, but don’t even think about the Disney version. This is a well-conceived piece of physical theatre which ought to equally entertain the grown ups – indeed, some of the humour might go over the head of the younger children – and is fast-paced, witty, and is the absolute opposite of patronising; the cast assume that they can say some things to children that not everyone would say to children. Cecily was mostly transfixed. And it’s not often she is mostly transfixed.

So, those are all the shows you should see this week. But this might leave you wondering what Cecily and I are going to be seeing this week, given that we’ve already seen that lot. Well, I’ll tell you. Probably another Kipper Tie show, ‘The Ugly Ducking’, awarded 5/5 by our reviewer, plus, we are already booked in for ‘The I Hate Children Children’s Show’ (5/5 last year as well as this), as well as a new show ‘Superjohn’, which has been developed at Great Ormond Street, and explores how to use creativity to help sick children and their siblings deal with serious illness. Cecily is also keen to see ‘Greek Myths For Kids’ (5/5 last year) and ‘Giddy Goat’ (4/5 this year), so who knows, you may see us there too. Unless mummy gets fed up and wants to go and see some grown up shows instead. Which is possible.

‘Tiddler And Other Terrific Tales’ was performed at Underbelly Bristo Square; ‘The Golden Cowpat’, ‘The I Hate Children Children’s Show’ and ‘Superjohn’ at Pleasance Courtyard; ‘The Jabberwocky’ and ‘East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon’ at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall; and ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘Greek Myths For Kids’, ‘Giddy Goat’, ‘Our Island’ and ‘Flamenco For Kids’ at C venues at Fringe 2012.