Thursday 16th August
The Ugly Duckling
Abandoned by her mother because of her strange looks we join our newly hatched ‘duckling’ (delivered as a surprise by the stork as we opened) as she looks to learn about herself and the world around her.
In this excellent adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale from Kipper Tie Theatre we learn that ‘no-one wants to be my friend and I’m lonely’ until Cat, Dog & Hen step in to assist the ever developing signet and we watch her bloom. Sally Lofthouse and Bernie Byrnes look like are clearly enjoying themselves in this two woman show and the small children in the (sadly) small crowd are soon enjoying themselves too – as are a number of the adults too, for whom there is the odd joke thrown in.
The show is aimed at small children, and ours are soon joining in with the drum rolls, claps and the songs, and in the case of these mini-reviewers the signs, as some of the songs and scenes are signed. Had we been aware of this prior to the show we would have been even keener to go and encouraged others to do so as this is part of our everyday life. We did feel that this could have perhaps been developed a little more, signing more of the key words, animal names and feelings, maybe capitalising on the success of acts such as Mr Tumble that have made signing popular with toddlers.
What was done was done well; the small set was atmospheric and intriguing to young eyes, the costumes impressive and the music and dance excellent, giving first a sense of loneliness leading to an ever increasing bounciness and happiness until the Ugly Duckling realises she is a beautiful swan.
When a 3 year old spots a performer afterwards in the café and wants to tell them what they enjoyed about their show, you know that Kipper Tie Theatre must be doing something right. (CB & Family)
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown And His Singing Tiger
12.45 Assembly George Square
We are welcomed by a tiger strumming a ukelele, suddenly a large bag in the corner, it shuffles forward and soon our eponymous hero is popping out, silent but with expressions that mean words are not needed and communicating via the musical feline.
What follows on stage is a fantastic hour of entertainment, with plenty of audience interaction and fun for all ages including some death defying stunts, some tennis, improvised singing and dancing and a fair bit of mess. Off stage we are having our first family diaster of the Fringe as one of our 3 year olds is taken away having it seems overdosed on sugar and excitement - it gets us all at our first Fringe in fairness. Those of us that remain behind are treated to 2 performers at the top of their game, as I write Dr Brown has been awarded this year's Fringe Comedy award for his other show and if this is anything to go by it is well deserved.
As we leave Dr Brown and the Tiger are there to high five everyone as we go l(still in character and still performing) eaving one 3 year old particularly happy after his 'powerful' high five leaves Dr Brown shaking his hand in pain! If there is a better family show at this year's Fringe I'd like someone to take me to see it.
If this re-appears I'll take the other child back to see what he missed, I encourage anyone else with kids (or even those without) to do the same! (CB & Family)
The Enormous Turnip
16.10 Spotlites @Merchant's Hall
A few years ago trying to find a show in the festival to entertain three year old twins would have been a nightmare. Recently though, ( like most of the other sections) the choice of children's shows is becoming quite impressive. Spotlites Theatre productions are becoming experts in this genre, producing two shows, this show alternating with " The Magic Porridge Pot".
Along with drunks children are possibly the hardest audience to please as you will discover if they are bored or restless. Two ways of holding their interest are to recreate a story they know or use a lot of participation. Spotlites Theatre are not silly, they use both.
Upon arrival they give the children a programme also acting as a ticket to a cushion in front of a chair occupied by an adult. The helper is very clear about how they can get involved, raise their hand when they are asked for help and then ensuring they return to the designated white line.
Then we are introduced to the three performers who play a variety of roles and are excellent in relating to the youngsters. The story is simple, basically planting a seed, watering it, protecting it from predators and watch it grow.
This synopsis does not capture the looks of wonderment of the children which is of course the reason for coming. Sadly, their run has ended this year but I am sure they will return, as will the children. (DC & CB and Twins!)
Symposium Hall 19.00
Well, what a truly Edinburgh day. After spending the afternoon trying to entertain lively three year old twins (including watching my first children's show) it was time to rush to another production.
Feeling hungry and thirsty we were surprised (to put it mildly) to be approached on the steps to the venue and asked if we were prepared to be on fire extinguisher duty for the evening. We are nothing if not game and armed with a carton of juice (to quench my thirst and not to be used in case of fire)and a muffin we headed into the auditorium.
This being Edinburgh they were still tearing down the set of the previous show as we entered, naturally passing a perspriring Liza Minelli look-alike. After receiving our fire-fighting instructions my wife and I were duly placed at opposite ends of the theatre and despite this being a large and plush venue the first other audience member demanded to sit next to me in case she needed a quick exit. Later, I discovered in the kerfuffle that I had inadvertently knocked over my drink, not only causing a nice puddle of liquid to ooze from under my seat but ensuring that if any fire broke out (it didn't) my area was already protected.
So, once my pre-show activities were complete I could finally concentrate upon the matter in hand. "Moon" is a modern piece of music by Gordon Hamilton, using a poem by Venero Armanno and sung by The Australian Voices, a group of male and female singers. Together they tell the story of Sam, a sickly boy, dying in his bedroom,but Diana, the Moon, sees him and falls in love. The ending could be sad yet somehow, here is uplifting as he finds peace, happiness and love.
At festival time Edinburgh as a 100 miles an hour city which never seems to sleep. As I know from experience it is easy to get caught up in the frenetic lifestyle. "Moon" is an increasing rarity, an oasis of calm and beauty amongst an increasingly noisy and mad world outside.
To be honest I am not a great fan of choral music but the sound they made, individually and collectively was truly wonderous to hear. They were helped by the musicality of the score but I must stress this wasn't just a treat for the ears. Sam's story was enhanced by screen projection and although most of the words was easy to follow, the visibility of the lyrics was a bonus.
The liveliness of the piece was also helped by placing the conductor in an aisle so his enthusiastic, physical presence was a additional piece of theatricality. The choir wasn't just restricted to static singing, using their bodies they helped to explain the action by movement, swaying, lying down and even writhing on the ground when the situation needed it.
The Fringe is about taking chances. This one more than repaid our gamble. Even if you miss this performance in Edinburgh check their website as they are about to embark on a tour of the Kingdom, singing a mainly classical repertoire. I hope to catch them in October in Cardiff. (DC & AC)
Old College Quad 22.30
A children's show about a huge vegetable, an acapella modern opera about a dying boy falling in love with the Moon, how on earth could I follow that? Well, how about an open-air virtually unspoken Polish dance show ending in a mini monsoon.
A few years ago we were impressed by a very physical Polish "Coriolanus" here and tonight we weren't disappointed. Although you can never take the Edinburgh weather for granted it is normally trying some site specific open-air performances.
Our first realisation that the show had started occurred when various performers rushed from the audience and began Central American style dancing. The tone of the piece soon changed following the intervention of military force and the use of tear gas. From here on the performers were generally restricted to moving either with white sticks or on hospital beds. This may sound odd, and indeed it was. What it never was, however, was dull!
The events may not have been easy to watch but it was always interesting and often beautiful. As it ended I stated I didn't really understand what was happening but I still loved it. A loud and ryhthmic soundtrack always gave something for your ears to feast upon while your eyes followed what was on show in front of them.
The performers were extraordinarily vibrant throughout the show and a cloudburst towards the end may have dampened the bodies of audience and artistes alike , but never their (or our) spirits. This is an outstanding antidote to being boiled alive. (DC & AC)