Happy 70th Ed Fringe!

So my time up in Edinburgh may have come to an end but with two weeks to go, there is so much still to see and do. The atmosphere in Edinburgh throughout August is impossible to describe and is possibly the best kind of chaos you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

From children’s shows to alcohol fuelled Shakespeare, and one man shows to stages brimming with ensemble, 30 shows filled my schedule interspersed with bacon rolls, orange juice and lemonade, Lidl bakery treats and a pint or two for good measure.

I laughed until I cried with Tamar Broadbent’s and her newly single lifestyle in her new show, Get Ugly and survived the front row as Shitfaced Shakespeare‘s production of Romeo and Juliet took a turn towards a Hebrew wedding with an inflatable dinosaur as a guest. Gecko’s The Dreamer was mesmerising to watch with stunning imagery, whilst Translunar Paradise from Ad Infinitum showed a heart string tugging story of love and loss. The Paines Plough Roundabout hosted some brilliant performances from Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby (a fab take of Cardiff life fuelled with energy and the words of Billy the Seal), to the wonderful three hander Out of Love, exploring growing up and growing apart with an honest and heart warming script from Elinor Cook.  

How to win against History is a huge dose of fabulous over at Assembly George Square, back for another year by popular demand, and the Stiff and Kitsch duo had us cackling with laughter in their highly relatable show Adele is younger than us. 

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol based wisdom during The Thinker Drinkers (the gin was most definitely my favourite!), and there were belly laughs galore during Jenny Collier’s, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Jen. Traverse Theatre once again had a super popular and stellar line up, with an endearing script and on stage relationship during Jess and Joe forever, and an absolute powerhouse of a vocal performance from Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone. Secret life of Humans from New Diorama is brilliantly staged and The Nature of Forgetting is beautiful in it’s choreography and live soundtrack as it explores dementia and the memories that stick with us.

The one (wo)man shows are out in force this year, with a fast paced, hard hitting hour from Milly Thomas and Dust, a grim and dirty take of a bereaved dad in Trashed, a high five for the NHS in Gutted and the highly important journey of Seline Thompson in Salt among many others. Over at Zoo Southside, Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or a guide to managing social anxiety using theoretical physics was one of my impromptu decisions and it was a diamond of a show which was impossible not to get up and dance along to at the end. 

I managed to catch Part One of The Divide as my first experience of Edinburgh International Festival and had massively mixed feelings but would be intrigued to see Part 2 at some point in the future if it’s set to tour. Despite the length, the staging itself is brilliant and my jaw dropped multiple times during Act 2. The Conti Ensemble are ones to watch as The Laramie Project was tense viewing with strong vocals from the ensemble throughout as witness statement after witness statement was presented following the horrific events in Wyoming. 

There is a brilliant concoction of productions for children and young people across the venues, with brilliant slapstick fun from Three Half Pint’s rendition of The Three Musketeers, and a great introduction to classical music from CCC in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck over at the Circus Hub out in the Meadows. How to be a Kid made me feel all fuzzy inside as the importance of staying young and dancing to Taylor Swift became apparent, and there were songs and rocket fuel galore with Les Petits Theatre The First Hippo on the Moon. Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught! had the hippo hunters in the audience roaring with laughter and suggestions for catching a hippo, whilst Oskar’s Amazing Adventures took us to the snowy mountains for a puppies mission to make friends and explore. 

Whilst that’s my main round up out the way, there are thousands of productions at the festival which I didn’t get to and I had more than a few time clashes and ran out of hours in the day unfortunately! I’ve heard wonderful things about Jack Rooke over at Underbelly, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s other show Odyssey is sure to be brilliant, and Nassim at Traverse has had a fantastic response from audience members and critics alike. Monica Dolan has just won a Stage Award for her performance in The B*easts, and the awards will surely start to roll in across the board now as You’ve changed also picks up a gong. All we ever wanted was everything is said to be really strong gig theatre, Cosmic Scallies was on my wish list but clashed and DollyWould has had lots of recommendations from the twittersphere. Back by popular demand, Lemons, lemons, lemons… and Every Brilliant Thing are back again at the Roundabout, both excellent pieces which I have seen in previous years (take tissues for the latter!), and following its success at The Other Room, Cardiff, the incredible Seanmhair is over at Bedlam. And towards the end of the month the renown Fleabag is back again, so we’ll have to hope for a regional tour for that one! 

To everyone lucky enough to still be in Edinburgh or is heading up over the next two weeks, have an amazing time. I am back home for the first night in my own bed and despite this still have massive fear of missing out on anything and everything.

See you next year Edinburgh: Happy 70th you beauty! 

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David Walliams: The First Hippo on the Moon

There is definitely no shortage of children’s productions at the festival this August, ranging from operas for babies to kids improv and storybook adaptations to clowning and circus.  David Walliams book has been brought to the stage by Les Petits Theatre following their success with Captain Flinn’s and the Pirate Dinosaur last year and this one is also, highly absorbing and brilliantly good fun. 

Sheila wants to be the first hippo on the moon and is determined to do whatever it takes to get there. Joined by some amazing puppet animals to help her out, this show see’s Sheila shimmy herself in to a rocket, and collect rocket fuel from the audience to help her reach the moon before her rival in the ultimate space race. With a special guest appearance from Donald Trunk to speed up proceedings, this show has something for the young at heart as well as the young themselves.

With brilliantly catchy tunes and clap along moments, this Les Petits production is entertaining enough for its target audience, although could do with being a little tighter and shorter, especially as thy have landed the lunchtime spot at the Pleasance. This hipponaut’s adventures are a true reflection of the picture book and the songs, set design and puppetry really bring the text to life.

The first hippo on the moon | Pleasance Courtyard

The tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck

There’s something lovely and relaxing about taking an hour out of the hustle and bustle of the festival to sit in a beautiful circus tent in the cenre of the Meadows whilst an orchestra masterfully plays its way through a children’s classic. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck has been brought to the Underbelly Circus Hub by Children’s Classic Concerts this summer and the tent was full of families excitedly scribbling on activity sheets and looking forward to the show.

The Beatrix Potter books are often a staple in a family home, and as Michelle Todd arrives to the stage in Potter style dress, the stories begin and Todd sings and narrates her way through with the accompaniment of an on stage mini orchestra.  As Jemima Puddle-duck tries to find a spot to lay her eggs away from the farmer, and Peter Rabbit loses yet another blue jacket and shoes, the stories came audibly to life as all members of the family fell in to the Beatrix Potter world.

The music itself is beautiful but there were several restless moments and something visual to entertain the younger members of the audience could be of benefit here.  However, the score soars as danger approaches from the fox or Mr McGregor, and the stories are wonderfully told via classical music. There is no doubt that Todd’s voice is a brilliant addition to the instrumental backing. 

Whilst this performance lacked visual aids and interaction with the audience, CCC have created a brilliant introduction to classical music for children and the orchestra beautiful bob along between duck footprints and the sound of the nasty Mr McGregor approaching.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck | Underbelly Circus Hub

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

Have you ever tried to catch a hippo? Didn’t think so! This show is an interactive family show slightly out of the norm from your standard children’s peformance, and despite a bold as brass and slightly restless audience, Dr Zieffal, Dr Zeigal and The Hippo that can never be caught went down a storm in the early morning slot at Assembly Roxy. 

As we are introduced to Dr Zieffal, whose assistant has gone awol, we are also introduced to her hippo hunting tactics and tool kit, all wonderfully colour coordinated in a very special area of the stage.  Imagination is key in this one, and even the adults in the audience had their hippo google goggles on ready to hunt for the escaped mammal. Members of the audience are invited on stage at various points to help in the mission, and there was a really touching moment when one young boy picked up the scientists umbrella as she attempted to stack and carry everything to no success. 

With a very relaxed feel to the whole performance, as the children shouted out suggestions and tried to help as much as possible as a brilliant chase ensued across and around the stage.  Although some longer pauses and wordy scripted moments caused several younger ones to lose focus, the overal chaotic and fun nature of the performance kept the audience hooked throughout.

Brilliant fun and a whole load of hippo hunters in the making, this is a treat for the early morning slot and one for children not afraid to get involved! 

Dr. Zeiffal, Dr. Zeigal and The Hippo That Can Never Be Caught! Mouth of Lions – Assembly Roxy

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

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

The Borrowers

Next up, as part of the Sherman’s double Christmas helping, is the classic children’s tale The Borrowers taking over the main stage this festive season.   Still just as relevant in today’s society, this story may focus on the small people under the floorboards or behind the clock, but they sure have a big message to get across to it’s audiences. 

Arietty has no idea what goes on above the floorboards besides the voices of the human beans and one day her dad takes her out to teach her how to be a true Borrower, kickstarting their big adventure. There were gasps of surprise as we were first introduced to a tiny puppet version of Arietty and even the adults of the audience were on the edge of their seats as the evil Mrs Driver hunted down the pocket sized family. The live music really adds to the performance and the actor musicians switch between roles and instruments seamlessly as the Clock family came across boys galore, a hilarious cricket and  a few others along the way. 

The set and design for this production is gorgeous and the size comparisons are incredibly clever, really making you believe in this magical tale. There isn’t a lot of audience interaction as per your typical children’s Christmas show, although this doesn’t stop the intrigue and interest from the young and the young at heart. 

Directed by Amy Leach, the cast are full of energy and bring Mary Norton’s classic story to life in an enjoyable fashion.  A beautiful tale full of magic, heart and messages of acceptance, letting go and above all, family: The Borrowers is well worth the trip to the Sherman this December.