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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Chrissie and the Skiddle Witch : A Climate Change Musical

Geologise Theatre

Genre: Family, Musical Theatre

Venue: Greenside @ Riddles Court


Low Down

A warm and gently amusing, informative show about a family trying to adapt to a changing world.


Glancing around Greenside’s Riddles Court theatre for this, the first performance of Chrissie and the Skiddle Witch – A Climate Change Musical, it looks like there’s a decent number of young people in the audience eager to learn a bit more about the environment their elders are in the process of bequeathing them.

The brainchild of Earth Science PhD students Matthew Kemp and Roberta Wilkinson, Geologise Theatre write, produce and perform musical stories, normally themed around science, climate change or the environment.  Most of their work is aimed at children and young people but, having seen the excellent story being told this week in what is an ideal lunchtime slot, it might well pay one or two prominent UK adults to forego their comestibles and pop down, listen and take note.

Chrissie is a young teen and a climate change activist – think Greta Thunberg with a Northern accent – but her family can’t understand what all the fuss is about.   When the latest tempest hits their seaside town of Skiddle, Chrissie finds herself dragooned into checking out that the little old lady in the woods who insists on living alone and off grid hasn’t been swept away by the deluge.   Overcoming her initial reluctance, Chrissie is surprised to find that not only is this “old witch” on her side, but she’s a lady harbouring a big secret.

This is a show aimed at older children (8+), teens and their families and has sufficient depth in terms of scientific content to engage the older cohort’s brains whilst never losing the younger end of the audience.  There’s a central message that is communicated clearly and consistently throughout using narrative and cleverly scripted lyrics to a variety of catchy tunes, with Kemp supplying the music and Wilkinson responsible for the words.  Added to this is a “human interest hook” as we follow Chrissie’s attempt to convince her family (for a start!) and others in her community that doing nothing with regard to the climate crisis is no longer an option.

Something like this could descend all too rapidly into the evangelical.  That is never gets close is down to the conviction and enthusiasm of the two performers which is clear and heartfelt in what was a warm and gently amusing show about a family trying to adapt to a changing world.  There’s balance in their arguments too – a pragmatic acceptance you can’t just slam the brakes on and stop the world, but that the current pace of change is unsustainable.

The show in its current form certainly worked – children and adults alike were clearly hooked.  So, it would be a pity if it only saw the light of day during its short Fringe run (it finishes on August 19).  Could it slot neatly into schools’ STEM curriculum, for example?  Or other youth focused educational groups?

We end on a note of optimism.  Kemp and Wilkinson believe that a lot has been achieved already in terms of addressing climate change and are convinced that science can help solve what is now accepted as an existential crisis by an increasing majority.  We just need to find a way out of the current political cul-de-sac.