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

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
 

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

P is for Peril

Billed with a family audience in mind for the over 9s in the 10am slot, Us/Them portays the events of a horrific terrorist attack through the eyes of two children in a enlightening and highly relevant piece of theatre.

Based on the tragic day in 2004 when a group of armed terrorists took over 1200 children and parents hostage in School 1 in Beslan, the whole performance is told from the perspective of two un-named children.  The hostage situation lasted for fifty hours resulting in 334 dead, many of which were children.  

As the events unfold, the set changes from a calm cloakroom with children’s coats hanging up to a gymnasium with three barricaded exits, the whole space laced with explosives and terrorists. The two performers are incredibly skilled and committed as they relive the days tragic happenings via a series of maths equations, the drawing of the floor plan of the school and their physical demonstration of the claustrophobic, warm conditions. There is no emotion in their take, as if they are telling a story of an event which happened to a friend or family member.

Unfortunately there was no happy ending on this occasion and the performance really highlights how the media presents the events, and how imagery is skewed to the outside world, making us question the truth. An incredible production brought to Edinbugh as part of the Big in Belgium season, which is a relevant, thought provoking and sinister must see this festival season.

Us/Them | Summerhall | 10am

O is for Onesies

The perfect escape from rainy Edinburgh, Bedtime Stories at the Underbelly Circus Hub is an afternoon delight and how I wish I had a onesie to cwtsh up in for this show rather than a soggy pair of jeans. In this Upswing production, beds and cushions fill the floor down the front for families to relax on and further back blankets are not in short supply for those wanting a real seat. 

We are introduced to a mother struggling too much work to do and her daughter, who just wants a bedtime story and a hug from her Mum before bed. The audience are instantly mesmerised as projections fill the centre of the tent, illustrating their life and there were oohs and aahs as the stage lit up. As the little girl struggles to sleep, she calls upon her imaginary friend Three who really is every small child’s imagination in human form, and they explore and adventure all the way to the moon. Their discoveries and games take over the wooden tent, introducing circus elements to fully use the whole space.

As the rain poured on the wooden tent, the sound of the dialogue suffered slightly, causing some parts to go unheard from the second row back and a few restless youngsters took their cue. Not deterred, the cast worked effortlessly together as they span around and were lifted high in the space.

A beautiful calming hour in the Circus Hub and despite feeling a little long and lacking pace at times, this is an afternoon treat for the young ones and their grown ups. Bedtime stories is an endearing and touching blend of children’s theatre and circus, making the outside world quite a shock when the lights came back on. 

Bedtime Stories | Underbelly Circus Hub | 14:30