Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Andrew Clover shares his seven secrets of storytelling in a hilarious show which makes children laugh, shout things out and eager to write tales of their own.
Andrew Clover hyperactively leaps into his performance area and directly interacts with his young audience. Having three of his own, he understands that these are the fiercest of critics of all and to allow even the slightest lapse of attention means sudden death. The children demand his attention and he demands theirs. He acts out anything they say no matter how ridiculous or physically strenuous. They buy into it. He talks to them about monsters, princesses, secret doors, magic spells and superheroes. They appear to think he is the same age as them and he rewards them by sharing his sweets with them.
He finds out everyone’s name, parents too, and it’s such a disappointingly small audience in this early Sunday morning that he can. They need to know how to write stories and for that he’s going to share with them seven topics. He does a dummy run first so that they can see how it’s going to pan out. The children create a hero and a villain, then develop a scenario for the characters to have an adventure in. Every right, and now, wrong answer gets a sweet.
The lights are lowered and Clover proceeds to depict a story line in which the children are not allowed to make any input. Instead they must imagine it all and keep it for later. I don’t expect him to achieve this but miraculously he does and the extremely polite children wait patiently for their turn. When the story is complete the lights are raised and the children replay the tale filling in the blanks with any thoughts they had. This is everything and anything, from the 3 year old child who repeats what had just been said, desperate to participate, to older children who are fully committed to this concept and with relish provide the implausible.
The show is a bit scrappy at points and anyone who has had to entertain children on their own will remember that, 10 minutes is a long time never mind 1 hour. However, at times Clovers concentration wavers as he tries to be all things to all people and entertain the adults as well as the children. Whilst I understand the idea was to get the children to use their imaginations, it may have been a good idea to use additional visual aids when he recapped on the story. The show is aimed at 4 year olds and upwards but there were certainly younger children present. The tots did not seem to appreciate the subtle changes in lighting, which I suspect is their deep suspicion that lighting changes are an attempt to make them go to bed early.
Clover is funny, understands children and keeps the recommended age group engaged. I recommend it for anyone sharing a home with small people who have overactive imaginations.