Edinburgh Fringe 2015
PaddleBoat Theatre Company invite you to set sail. “We journey on the high seas with Little Man – an ordinary man who dreams of adventure.” This is an hour of enchanting children’s theatre for ages four and up.
There as a small audience for A Little Man’s Holiday, on this, the official first day of the Fringe. Paddleboat’s cast adapted to that small numbers with ease in a show that deserves, and I think will attract, a wider audience pretty quickly.
This is a piece of story theatre, often addressed directly to the audience, with well placed, and never over-bearing, audience participation. The story is supported by some inventive props as well as music, played live on a keyboard on stage. It’s refreshing to see the use of a simple musical backdrop rather than canned music or the now cliched accordion. The piano enhances the mood of story theatre and is well woven into the unfolding story, adding to the atmosphere, changes in tempo, and build up of tension when needed.
Little Man leaves his bored office life in search of adventure and escape, dressed up as the need for a holiday. Little Man is a gentle man at heart but there’s courage there too, which shows itself in a sea adventure that is a quest for lost treasure. Little Man is tired of city life. Little man is a bit of us all.
Puppetry, delightful props, a suitable villain and plenty of story twists and turns all add to the entertainment. There’s plenty to see and the story remains clear and accessible throughout.
The cast are all good, confident and focused utterly on sharing the tale. This is a quality children’s production, offering an antidote to TV and film CGI and product placement too often found laced into fringe children shows. Traditional in style, drawing on folk tradition in terms of music and costume, a high sea adventure is enriched by some intelligent scripting and story. There’s an underlying pedagogy here. The children learn as they watch, without any overt teaching needed. We learn about work and play, about the role of money in relation to happiness, about maps, about the sea and navigation. The show is loaded with interesting information laced nimbly into the narrative.
Natural colours, a simple set with plenty of interesting and useful props, PaddleBoat Theatre make life-size small with a change of those props and it fascinates those watching.
This is a lovely show, delivered eloquently by a very together cast. It is warm-hearted theatre. Little Man stares out of his office window and dreams of the sea, dreams of escape. We all want him to go, and we want to go with him, away from the greedy boss, realised by some well design and delivered puppetry. As we head under sea, I will not spoil for you the surprises in store.
Some of the staging needs to be a bit tighter in terms of overlapping music with live action, and also not performing out of from focused light. When that happens things become a little less clear. But those moments are rare in a charming theatre production I am happy to highly recommend.