Edinburgh Fringe 2011
An early indication of the joy of this show was the delightful little girl galloping around the Gilded Balloon as we waited for doors to open, singing distractedly to herself ‘Bubblewrap and boxes! Bubblewrap and boxes! Bubblewrap and boxes!’ She even had her own punchline, when an employee of the Gilded Balloon approached the family and asked, straight-faced and innocent, what show they’d come to see (The little girl knew the answer). The great thing about this hour is that you know exactly what you’re going to get as you’re going in. But you still manage to be surprised.
The set-up couldn’t be more simple. The stage is littered with a huge collection of variously sized boxes, in which our two new friends dart in and out, having adventures as dictated by their imaginations, in a scenario that will be familiar to any parent who has spent Christmas morning watching, dismayed, as the kids abandon the expensive toys in favour of the boxes they came in. In simplest terms, the environment is a ostensibly a Post Office (although that’s pretty much irrelevant to most of the audience), which allows the pair to sort their imaginations via whatever passing boxes or postcards tell them. Originally, it seems to be ticking over quite efficiently until the boy looking after everything gets distracted by the arrival of a pretty girl – something that appears to resonate with everyone in the audience, no matter what their age.
They’re both enormously engaging performers. He, a direct descendent of Norman Wisdom in ill-fitting jacket and cap and eager to please, and she, and elfin pixie squealing in the style of Blackadder’s Queenie, with a lovely habit of determinedly pushing her hair back when steeling herself to a task, both make a great double-act, and the children in the audience squeal with delight as the two play games with each other, which – almost inevitably – at one point involve standing in a box and making driving-car noises. The pair make great play of a box that stays closed – and while the majority of the audience were pleasingly frustrated by everyone keeping a lid on things, a couple of the younger ones got quite scared.
There’s a very cute joke near the end, which centres on a massive sleight of hand that has occurred for most of the show, and manages to remind you of at least one of the reasons why you came along in the first place. This is indicative of the glee and abandon that make up the character of this show which appears to take as its mantra the old line that says that we don’t stop playing because we get old, but that we get old because we stop playing.
Delightful, assured and very funny.