Edinburgh Fringe 2012
This is a children’s theatre using puppetry, song and storytelling to excellent effect. Using the Tempest as the coat hanger the dress draped upon it is delivered with aplomb, style and joy. Pitched perfectly it gives us all the familiar names, the story and unforgettable set pieces that delighted the young audiences on a wet Edinburgh August.
Let us begin with the genius of a show that is all about the pouring rain in Edinburgh in August. OK so it may not be genius but from the very off drip drop and rain, rain go away as a beginning to the story of the Tempest is delivered by the two actors with such gusto that even if it had not been raining we would have felt the weather. As it was it was pouring outside! The actors’ ability to manipulate the puppets, sing and integrate all within the story is exemplary. In particular they capture that beauty of naivety that teachers of actors would give their right arms to use as examples in class.
A young daughter, Isabella, grand daughter to Prospero cannot sleep. The rain is keeping her awake. The magic box, sitting in the corner of her room glows in the night, once opened provides her with a book that glitters and transports her to the isle where Caliban and Arial have one half each of Prospero’s staff. Through Isabella’s determination and skilful manipulation of Caliban’s delightful puppet we see the young audience taken to the point where the staff can be mended, the rain stopped at Isabella’s and peace and sleep restored.
This is a very tight show where the writing, based on excellent source material does not talk down to the kids whilst having any bawdy nonsense for the grown up kids. I will forgive the staff meeting quip – because it was funny! This plays a grown up story for kids exactly as it should be. The performances of the two actors is fantastic. Not only do we believe the changes of character but the theatricality of the show allows us to suspend disbelief and just delight in it as an event.
The set is also delightful and I am very encouraged to see such detail from a bed, a chair and a duvet whilst also giving us a believable storyline. The Fringe does not lend itself to elaborate sets but where time and patience is taken the rewards are worth it. It had an elaborate background but the fact that the best elements were visible, inventive and used simple puppetry made it even more enchanting. It smacks of creative thought and high standards in the values it wishes to place in front of its very precious audience. They were highly appreciative. Even those younger ones who were unsure and a little weepy at the beginning became silently engaged in the end result.
It was very much worth a visit as an example of its genre. It is a children’s show done very well but as to its uniqueness I was less than excited by it. It may not be the most original use of The Tempest this year but the execution of it was highly skilled.
It was therefore an excellent performance that may not bring a new direction in children’s theatre but is without a doubt one of the best examples of children’s theatre you will find this year at any venue. Oh and as if by magic – by the time that I had left the theatre – the rain had stopped.