How to be a Kid

Paines Plough are back with the beloved roundabout and a stellar line up once again at the festival this year, and their early morning kids offering is a total gem. How to be a Kid is just what any one needs first thing, young or young at heart, and the messages of not growing up too quickly resonate with a lot of the audience. 

Molly does all the cooking and cleaning, and looking after of younger brother when their Nan’s passes away and their Mum is struggling to cope. But Molly is only 12, and with everyone telling her different things about whether she needs to grow up or that she’s just a kid, one day it is all just too much. This show takes us on a break out adventure to find Molly’s inner kid once more, and with some help from Vera and a well timed promo voucher.

Although the story itself could do with a little more background into the family set up, the performances and messages are insightful and heart warming to see, as the bus zooms around the space, they dive in to the pool out of hours and Joe’s diplodocus moves hijack Molly’s cool levels on the walk home making two brothers down the front roar with laughter. With no props or set, the lighting design is crucial and works brilliantly to help us set the scene, from a dark house in the middle of the day to the bright lights of the Golden Arches. 

With chocolate cake, happy meals and a large dose of Taylor Swift, How to be a Kid is a wonderful piece on upside down family life, with a whole lot of heart and the roundabout stage suits the three hander brilliantly. 
How to be a Kid | Paines Plough Roundabout @ Summerhall

Gutted

Pleasance dome is a greenhouse haven from the showers this August in Edinburgh and tucked away in the Jack Dome, is Liz Richardson and Tara Robinson’s production of Gutted. A real life account of Liz’s bowel condition, this is a brace and brazen account of what goes on behind closed bathroom doors. 

Liz Richardson is a twenty-something, living with a chronic bowel condition called ulcerative colitis, and as we were are introduced to several relations, as well as nurses and doctors, the extent of her condition becomes apparent to the audience. As audience members are invited on to stage to play the parts of parents and others, bribed with cupcakes and beer, Liz gives a bold and shamless insight in to appointment after appointment and the reactions from complete stranger, to delve into how we deal with invisible illnesses. 

Well created and brilliantly told, as Liz switches from character to character, and eats yoghurt after yoghurt, she gives an upfront and engaging account into the condition and her experience dealing with embarrassing symptoms, as well as a grateful nod to the NHS.  Not your standard show content by a long stretch, but a relevant and truthful account, scented by tomato ketchup, of an invisible illness which is so rarely spoken of.

Gutted | Pleasance Dome 

Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly

Everyone has those ugly days, those days when you’ve not been matched on tinder or those days when you’re the reason there’s a smell on the bus… Tamar Broadbent is championing all females in their mid 20s with her show, Get Ugly, this year at Underbelly Med Quad and I’ll cut straight to the point, this show made me cackle. Loud.  

Tamar has just come out of a five year relationship and is struggling to come to terms with herself again as a singleton, especially when her sister points out that you get 25% uglier when going through a break up! As she battles hot gym girl on a daily, struggles with the app dating game of swiping and matching and reiterates the common thoughts on Facebook suicide, she tells how she has learnt to love herself again as she adjusts to independent life. 

This show is the perfect remedy for an ugly day and a slice of pure comic relief for a late afternoon. Through songs and anecdotes, and even a Britney moment, the sold out room was full of laughter, nods in agreement and a lot of hell yeahs. I mean, moving the fridge is super hard work for one person… but anyway, Get Ugly is for anyone who’s gone through a break up, fallen out with a friend or got stuck feeling a little less awesome than you should do, and I urge you all to get a ticket pronto. 

Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly | Underbelly Med Quad

Oyster Boy

Everyone knows the story of girl meets boy, but that is not quite the extent of this production by a long shot… Adapted from the story by Tim Burton, Oyster Boy has been brought to the festival by Haste Theatre company and are based in the tucked away Omnitorium as part of Assembly this year.

An all female ensemble, the cast work well together to tell the story of Jim and Alice’s whirlwind romance and the introduction to the world of their son, Sam who has an oyster for a head! Starting on a beach on Cony Island in the 1950s, the performance can sometimes feel a little disjointed and overly long in places, but as the Oyster Boy himself is brought to life in beautiful puppetry, the piece starts to soar along with the waves of the ocean.  Molly and Polly work brilliantly as Sam’s playmates, accepting of their new friend no matter what their Mother says. 

The puppetry itself injected fresh air in to the piece and the scenes of sole puppetry and singing were choreographed beautifully. Not what I was expecting from the offset but storytelling done very well complete with humorous doctors visits, a wonderful puppet and free lollipops! 

Oyster Boy – Haste Theatre Company | Asssembly Omnitorium
 

Oskar’s Amazing Adventure

It’s that time of the year again and the beautiful city of Edinburgh has turned in to a whole world of performances, faltering and the best kind of chaos you could imagine. As always there’s a great offering across all genres, and there are some excellent slices of children’s theatre tucked away in the early hours of daylight each day.  Oskar’s Amazing Adventures is one of these, upstairs in the beautiful building turned in to the Gilded Balloon for August and this one woman performance is full of joy, puppy adventures and dance moves to kick start your day!

Performed by Natasha Granger, we are introduced to Grandma and her animals who live in a little house on the top of a mountain. Puppy Oskar just wants to explore and one day takes the leap to go down the mountain to make some new friends leaving behind a cockerel and a hen playing tug of war, and Momma Bella snoozing with Grandma. As Oskar takes off in to the snow, meeting new animals along the way (not all entirely friendly!), the audience are encouraged to join in as the snow falls around him and he discovers a new joy of digging. 

The set wonderfully adapts to every scene and adventure, and Natasha Granger does an incredible job of keeping audience members young and old enthralled from start to end. 

A little too long for some of the smaller members of the audience but a beautiful example of charming storytelling and adventures. Made even better by a young audience member called Oskar joining in as much as possible as the tale continued! 

Oskar’s Amazing Adventure | Gilded Balloon – Dining Room | 11:50

Escape the Scaffold

As the third and final addition to their Outliers season, The Other Room are back this week with Escape the Scaffold fresh from it’s run at co-producers, theatre 503 in London and yet again, this takes the audience on a brand new journey as soon as the doors close behind them. As we settle down for a rare two act production in the tucked away space at Porters, it’s safe to say we are soon locked down within the house the same as the characters we meet.

The plot jumps back and forth between time but revolves around three friends from university, both in their student days, pjs and tequila shots and all, and also their lives years later as they meet again under different circumstances.  As we step in to a basically furnished house, we see hints of relationships within the love triangle of Grace, Aaron and Marcus and while moments of their interaction show real glimmers of reality, there is a permanent state of unease and their political differences clash from the early on chicken dinner.  From a student lifestyle where the outside world is full of plans to move on and grow up, to what appears to be a police controlled state where the outside world is unsafe and full of fear, there are themes of love, delusion and danger throughout as the three have big choices to make. 

The set is instantly brought to life by a beautiful lighting arrangement by Katy Morrison, as the basement shines with lost hope through the floorboards and the wallpapered walls show hints of the past etched into them. However,  the transitions between scenes are sometimes disjointed and the constant switches in time are disorientating at best as the storyline proved too elusive to keep up with throughout. 

A bewildering, fast paced production which left too many questions unanswered for my liking, but theatre to make you think whilst leaving a sense of unease is no mean feat, and in Escape the Scaffold, the directors and actors collaborate to create a tense and relevant performance. 

Escape the Scaffold plays at The Other Room until the 6th May. For all TOR related updates, follow @TORtheatre on Twitter.

You’ve got Dragons

It’s the Easter holidays, so of course Chapter Arts is full of excited children and their parents downing a much welcomed cuppa, before Taking Flight’s anticipated You’ve Got Dragons takes to the stage. Taking Flight pride themselves on bringing highly accessible theatre to audiences of all ages, and this slice of children’s fun was definitely not exception.

As the lights dim and two Dragons emerge, the audience watch with anticipation, some a little nervous, as the brightly coloured set comes to life and Benjamina tells her story.  Ben has Dragons which follow her on the bus, in class and hide under her bed… but over time she manages to control her demons, taking your dragon for walks can help if you were interested! Whilst some of the anxiety symptoms may have gone over the heads of the younger ones, this doesn’t have any impact on their ability to enjoy the performance, and the music and on stage instruments keep them all involved as different characters appear and the Dragons become a challenge to overcome. 

Despite a slow start and being a little chaotic at times trying to be everything for everyone, You’ve got Dragons has something for the whole family as the parents sympathised with the universal bedtime routine and there was laughter all round as the postman swaggered crossed the set. 

With various elements performed in British sign language, captions on the stage screens and some audio description, the production is incredibly accessible and the bright colours and bouncy music is a welcome burst of sunshine from an otherwise gloomy, rainy Cardiff evening.