Edinburgh Fringe 2014
"Chase enchanted mice! Splat magic mud pies! Help Puss storm the ogre’s castle! Professional interactive theatre for kids who don’t just want to sit still and watch! Little ’uns come onstage throughout! Join Puss as he tries on his magic boots! Boy is poor; what can Puss do?" Spotlites’ unique brand of "go on stage and help" children’s theatre brings Puss in Boots to the Fringe.
This Puss in Boots fits into the 2-5 age range in the Spotlites’ portfolio of children’s shows here at the Fringe. All share one thing in common – that the children get the opportunity to help the characters in the story, a chance to get on stage and be part of the narrative.
This has been taken even further in this production with children and parents gathered on stage and in front rows around the action. You can leave any Dreamworks CGI versions behind here – we are fully back in the realm of traditional fairy tales with soft pastel shades and a journey to somewhere interesting.
The performers have resonant, clear voices and present objects and chapters in the tale with clarity, lovingly preserving the mood of fireside bedtime stories. Our Puss is from pantomime, our other players drawn from the pages of a picture book – no garish colours in the costumes or the many simple props which the cast use to tell to tale of a rather clever and wily cat.
Music offers a gentle backdrop, almost lullaby in places, lighting soft bright drawing attention to the middle of the space where the action takes place. There are plenty of surprises along the way but the narrative is never lost. When a lot of children got involved there was plenty of chaos and performance became playgroup. But never for long, and never in a way that detracted from the intentions of this production as story theatre.
Sharing and community as motives are never far away from a Spotlites production, even where there are villains to overcome or quests to complete. This is a theatre of "things" – props are brought out and shown reverentially, and many things are shared out so that everyone gets a turn. The castle is a bit garish and needs a paint to bring it into line with the rest of the lovely set. That’s my only quibble in a fine piece of children’s theatre.
This is theatre that is able to hold a story and remain true to tradition, yet also take a few risks and play with more modern styles, varying the pace, from patient stillness and wonder, to fast-moving action. We have a language drawn from the original mood of the books, yet our characters also know how to engage and chat with kids of today.
This is a very strong production from Spotlites; it managed to keep the children engaged, fascinated, and also pulled into a timeless tale. At this age group, Spotlites manage to combine family values, good morals, a bit of mischief, and plenty of comedy and knockabout set pieces to light up the eyes of 2-5s. They depart from the narrative with confidence and invite the children to be part of, not just onlookers to the story. This is a new experience for many parents and kids; it’s also an experience that brings many regulars back to their shows. This particular production has gone even further with audience involvement and their ability to do that whilst still delivering a faithful rendition of Puss in Boots is pretty astonishing.
I’ve not seen performers commmand a stage like this, packed with kids running about for a very long time. It requires belief in the approach, confidence in it and a willingess to risk losing the fourth wall so that the children of today can engage with live performance. Puss in Boots is an outstanding combination of fairy tale and play, comedy and drama, interaction and performance. No one does it quite like Spotlites.