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. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Christmas is almost upon us, it’s a sneaky one isn’t it, where has 2016 gone?! But amongst the mince pies and the pigs in blankets, the Sherman have their double helpings of Christmas magic on offer once again and yesterday it was time for Alun Saunders’, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The Hans Christian Anderson classic has been brought to life by the Sherman and Theatr Iolo and has taken over the studio space as clothes hang from the balcony and the stairs.  The setting is instantly very informal and interactive as the three actors encourage the children to sit on the mats near the front and talk to them as the audience enters the space.  

The story revolves around Kare and his life growing up to be an Emperor and having responsibillywhatsits and from his first yells and bursts of funny faces, the young audience members are roaring with laughter. As the three actors switch between songs, dialogue and musical instruments, the story comes to life and a little bit of imagination is in order as the minimal set design is injected with joy and new threads! 

With no pouting or pwdi’s in sight, Kare soon learns that his parents were right all along and that you must always laugh at yourself (or somebody else will do it fo you!) Ending with a lovely rendition of the title song, the young and young at heart are reminded that sometimes all it takes is a good chuckle and a bit of silliness.  The Emperors New Clothes is a wonderful delight of a Christmas show for 3-6 year olds. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes | Sherman Theatre and Theatr Iolo | At the Sherman until 31st December 

Z is for a Zest of Grimm

The Grimm brothers wrote over 200 stories but only a select few of them are still retold today; you know the ones: Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and all the others with the perfect happy ending. Not wanting to miss any stories, Avva Laff productions are at theSpace currently to tell the forgotten tales with the more gruesome endings.

The story squad are introduced and  as they all switch between various characters, the gritty tales are all played out before the audience. As one character tries to cheat death, one hen reaches an unfortunate demise and Hans my Hedgehog teaches it is always better to keep your promises, this show has something for the whole family with a few puns slipped in for the adults. 

The space is too small for the cast and their set, but the direction is clear and works well for the most part. Stuffed to the brim with puppetry, rapping, larger than life costumes and some straight talking story telling, the energy is high and this taste of the darker side of Grimm makes a change from the fairy tales and conventional happy ever afters.

Although the whole piece could be a lot slicker and some of the cheaper costumes and over enthusiastic clichés could be lost, the humorous storytelling itself is a treat for those aged 6+ and the constant switching between fact and fiction keeps the audience intrigued and involved.

The Grimmest of Grimm Tales | theSpace @ Surgeons Hall | 09:40

XY is for Xtra mischief for the Young ones

Barrowland Ballet are always a delight to see featured on any program and this year they’re at Dancebase on the Grassmarket with their show Poggle, aimed at those under the age of 4. Full of mischief, Poggle is a beautiful exploration of dance for the little ones with some added humour for their grown ups to appreciate too.

The piece explores how young children see the world and we are introduced to Poggle as she drags her new friend round the space on a journey of discoveries, including squelching through mud, climbing trees and blowing bubbles. As children (and adults) are picked up as they place hide and seek, the two friends roll and dance around the space, playing clapping games on their stomachs and finding new sounds amongst their surroundings. 

This cheeky magical performance is a wonderful escape and the onstage musical accompaniment and rhyming songs really add to the overall imagery. With the chance for the little ones to interact and play on stage at the end, Barrowland Ballet have pitched this just right, making this a treat and a wonderful introduction to dance for the under 4s.

Poggle | Dancebase | 13:30

W is for (Into the) Water

Dance and physical theatre for children seems to be in short supply this summer, but Up and Over It have taken over the Grand Theatre at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall with a piece that is mesmerising and enchanting throughout. 

Although the production appears to lack any sense of narrative, two performers take over the space, first appearing with animal heads and later on throwing these aside. As dance and movement take charge, the scenery and projections are beautiful and enchanting to watch although as time passes this seems a little too repetitive the older audience members. As the rain falls and the two plunge themselves under water, the folk, trance soundtrack and lightbulb flashes make an intriguing backdrop for the movement.

Although this piece could do with dropping 10 minutes somewhere and losing someone of
the repetition throughout, it’s great to see a dance piece for families which isn’t your standard ballet, and the rhythms and clapping keep the energy of the piece at an appropriate level. An enchanting piece kept alive by the hypnotising soundtrack. 

Into the Water | theSpace @Surgeons Hall | 11:40

V is for a Very large fruit 

The whole of the UK has gone Roald Dahl crazy this year with the centenary celebrations and UCLU Runaground are at Zoo Venues with James and the Giant Peach this festival season. 

As any fans of the popular book will know, the story revolves around James Henry Trotter as he escapes from his evil Aunts in a giant peach, alongside talking insects looking to him for guidance and travels across the Atlantic Ocean. As puppets and shadow art bring their adventures to life, James and his new friends have to rack their brains to survive their travels amidst bad weather conditions and shark infested waters. 
The Welsh centipede steals the show at various points and songs and folk music are used to bring life to the story. However, the ensemble is too large and the stage regularly looks cluttered and simple scenes appear chaotic and lacking clear direction. The narrator is slightly too over enthusiastic and some of the younger audience members lose interest fairly quickly as they struggle to keep up.

With some brilliant moments of shadow puppetry and some humorous characters, this performance makes for an enjoyable hour but unfortunately doesn’t quite do the book justice on this occasion. 

James and the Giant Peach | Zoo Venues | 14:25

U is for Urban Pirates

Pirates and hip hop isn’t a combination you come across very often but Let’s all Dance have done just that this month at theSpace venue. Pesky Pirates: A Hip Hop Adventure had the front row audience members on their feet as their story came to life. 

With absolutely no dialogue throughout the performance, the two pirates tell the story of their treasure chest discovery, their hunt for its key and their troubles on the high seas. Alongside a vaguely hip hop soundtrack, the two actors use expressive faces and dance movements to keep the audience intrigued and as the waves get bigger and bigger, the small children in the front row were up on their feet instantly to join in as they were giving fabric to wave around. 

Although not what I expected, this performance was definitely not short on energy and the young pirates were more than up for joining the dance off on stage, even if some were slightly early to the party! An upbeat and fun production, pitched at just the right duration for its demographic.

Pesky Pirates: A hip hop adventure | theSpace @ Niddry Street | 11:20