Edinburgh Fringe 2014
"Battle the West Witch with real laser swords! Blast Space Pirates in the ruby asteroids! Jump black holes". Spotlies unique brand of childrens’ theatre, set in space!
One thing marks a Spotlites show from just about every other childrens’ show on the Fringe. At regular intervals you’ll see almost the entire audiences (of the younger ones) hands shoot up as everyone gets a chance to help the heroes (and occasionally villains) on stage to achieve their goals on what is always a quest that is designed to fascinate and draw in the kids.
And draw them it is does. Oz and the Space Pirates is a space opera blending pirates with the Wizard of Oz. It’s a quest for treasure and a classic battle of good versus evil. This is interactive theatre with plenty of opportunity for young members of the audience (5-12s in this case, they have other shows for younger ones) to get on stage, to solve problems, find things, and even battle the baddies. The cast of three, James Cowden, Kieron Riddell and Jordan Shepherd play a range of characters. The set is ingeniously simple, allowing space ships and black holes to be brought to life, with the help of some decent miming from the cast.
A few special effects, some evocative lighting and plenty of dry ice, all create the effective space mood and even land us on emerald planets.
It’s done creatively and fullheartedly. The story is a bit too loaded with jargon and some childrendidn’t "get" it all. But for him that was part of the appeal. He loved all the technical terms that space ship captains use. The narrative isn’t perhaps as easy to follow as their other show, Merlin’s Dragon. On exiting the venue, I asked our ten-year-old what he throught of the show and whether he’d got it all. He nodded at me as if I was an idiot. "Of course! Didn’t you?"
As a grown-up critic I would suggest simplifying some of the language and story just a bit to make it all easier to follow.
What we have in Oz and the Space Pirates is the signature quest, that held the children enthralled. They loved the interaction and energy of the show. Music, lighting, the sheer committment of the multi-talented cast, all add up to another winner from Spotlies, relying on the values of being brave, true to yourself, collaborating to make progress in this world, and on other planets too!