Edinburgh Fringe 2023
As we arrive, we are welcomed and given a napkin. Encouraged to fold and make things out of it, it acts as a filler prior to a formal introduction to the piece. Once the introduction and welcome are gone, two artists enter and begin the process of becoming clouds, rain, thunder, lightening and birds. Behind them on a screen are shadows of these very things in shadow puppetry. Eventually they create some more physical work using a pipe to represent worms before drawing themselves in luminous paint on a screen. We end with singing a song about being friends under an umbrella.
Billed as an introduction to their culture, this works in bringing us closer to an understanding of the significance of the natural world, rain and an umbrella. It has at its heart how we communicate kindly to each other, through a visual and vocal language. It works well once we have got started and the noises and the physicality are well established. The use of the visual in shadow work is very well woven into the piece and it has such a skilful and exquisite cadence to it.
Once settled the two physical artists use their bodies and voice to introduce the symbols and signals of our environment work hard and work well. Their work includes making the clouds, birds real and writing large our communities within that environment. They also reference our place within the natural world using signs and symbols. This is done in a highly creative and imaginative manner.
There is little doubt that we are witnessing very skilled performers who have developed a piece which, for children is aimed at stimulating their thinking. It requires a setup, which this particular morning saw most of the children struggling a little to retain attention. Once that attention was gained, however, they were captured and enthusiastic. At one point I felt that enthusiasm could have been encouraged more and rather than the children being asked to retain their decorum, their curiosity should have been allowed to let them roam. I would have welcomed the opportunity to see more interaction with the younger children as I felt that as a company, Double and Cross had the ability to learn from it, grow with it and subsume the encouragement and creativity of the children into the whole performance. Their inviting use of movement is indeed an invitation and one which the younger children may have responded to in kind. The grown ups were working to retain the attention of their young charges, and I think the dialogue between the two would have been fascinating.
It did not help that we were in a theatre space that was divided by us in seats and the performers beneath us, onstage. Had there been a more equal flooring, I reckon there would have been more scope and opportunity to allow this freedom to be explored.
Working towards the ending with a song that celebrates keeping out of the rain, in Scotland, had its own beauty. It was here that the whole thing worked best as the performance was now more engaging and you got the feeling that all of us were not just willing the performance on but part of it. It has some value in the direction being clean and clear, the performers being exceptionally well versed physically and the audience participation, eventually being on point. It is indeed an introduction to another culture which is great, and a tremendous opportunity to leave the phones at home.