Greek Myths for Kids

Four Star

****

As we file in, the cast are among the audience, chatting to the children about their Greek myths knowledge. They then bound on stage, and go on to use a wide range of techniques to tell four Greek myths.

The first is Theseus and the Minotaur, told using large puppets, and plenty of audience interaction. The second is the tale of Persephone in the underworld, again performed part actor, part puppet. Third, Daedalus and Icarus’ tale is told using shadow puppets behind a screen, and images projected onto it. Finally, Perseus’ tale of defeating the gorgon is performed using all these techniques, including acting out Pegasus, the winged horse.

This show is educational, but too much fun to mean the children think they’re at school. The show mentioned links between the tales, and got in background information, all almost without us noticing.

The show specifies age 4+, and although younger children will appreciate it too, this will still be a fun romp through these tales for children well into double-figures – as well as a handy reminder for the mums and dads.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

C Venues – C ECA

To 27th August

14:15 to 15:15

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Flamenco for Kids

Three Star

***

This is less show, more workshop, where any children feeling brave enough take to the stage, and learn the fundamental skills of flamenco. The basics are stomping and clapping to the music, and although this was a very quiet day, the performers (two dancers, one musician) still took their task seriously, breaking everything down into simple steps and routines, then building up for a final “show” from their volunteer performers for the audience of parents.

For this show, there are flamenco outfits for all, regardless of gender, or size. On busy days, the show is sometimes done in two part sessions, to ensure everyone gets a turn, with those not currently dressed up clapping along.

Once everyone is suitably attired, the floor lights go down, the stage ones up, and the show’s team lead their willing volunteers through the routine once more.

With low numbers, it’s hard to tell how the show would work fuller, but the performers’ raport with children of all ages suggests that this would work even better. It’s certainly fun to get to not only see a show, but be in one, and a lovely taster of a vibrant, fun form of dance.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

C Venues – C ECA

To 27th August (not 21st)

13:15 to 14:15

The Snail and the Whale

Four Star

****

When a Julia Donaldson book is adapted for the fringe, there’s no lack of eager audience, as her fans are only small in stature, not in numbers. And the Snail and the Whale is a particularly sweet story, telling the tale of an unusual friendship.

The company did a wonderful job with the story. I think all the original Donaldson text was there, but woven around it was a second story; that of a young girl whose navy father was terribly missed when away, and who has to come to terms with not being able to do some of the things she’d like to until she’s older.

In the theatre, the older, wiser version of the nameless girl is playing her viola as the audience file in. As the lights go down, she explains the set up, narrating parts of the story, and briefly playing a role. This telling adds even more fun to the original text, from the furniture whale, to the penguin dance, before the boat race. It ends with a happy singalong. For those keen to be near the front, I should say – beware the water pistols!

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Pleasance Courtyard

To 26th August

15:00 to 15:45

Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales

Five Star

*****

There are four of Julia Donaldson’s stories in this show, so while not every toddler will know them all, most will know enough to have a great time, and it didn’t matter whether or not you knew the tales.

Scamp Theatre aren’t new to adaptation of this author’s books, and do so with aplomb. Plenty of physical comedy, lots of laughs, and sticking reasonably closely to the original texts, though some devoted pre-schoolers may object to a few missing animals from Monkey Puzzle. It’s a pity it’s set on the Udderbelly’s three sided stage, as side audiences often lost sight of the action.

The stories weave together by using the cast to help the monkey to find his mum (with butterfly, of course). Every so often he gets tired, and they tell another tale while he rests. These include a Squash and a Squeeze, with minimal set redesigns for the pokey house, Tiddler, of the title, with fishermen telling the tale, and then the Smartest Giant in Town, who gives away his things to help others.

So by the finish, it’s happily ever after all around, including all the small audience members, who even get a Tiddler bag-for-life to go.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Underbelly, Bristo Square

To 27th August

11:15 to 12:05

The Red Bus Puppet Show

One Star

*

There was some lovely a capella singing in this show, which told the tale of Briar Rose, also known as Sleeping Beauty. Sadly, there wasn’t enough of anything else to engage the young audience, as demonstrated by the chatty toddler behind me. The cast need stronger voices, or projection lessons to command the show despite these distractions.

The puppets were hard to see, even if toddlers were standing on the seats, as by definition, puppets on strings have to be low. Their sets and scenery was pretty much lost from any distance back.

Early on, there was a join-in song, which boded well, despite not being one I knew, but that was then the only example, which was a pity. The show was altogether too slow, with long gaps for re-arranging the sets, and despite the singing during this, the target age group (pre-schoolers) mainly don’t have that level of patience.

After the show, there was an option (for an additional fee) to go onto a red bus for a ride around town, or buy bus merchandise. If you were thinking of taking a small bus fan along, you could go straight to that.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

The Red Bus

To 15th August

10:00 to 10:35  –  11:30 to 12:05  –   13:00 to 13:35 –  15:00 to 15:35

The Showstoppers Family Matinee

Four Star

****
The Showstoppers are back, and this time it’s swear-free. This was the Showtoppers team’s first foray into family friendly, but I hope not their last. Using the usual Showstoppers format, the team used audience suggestions and host Pippa Evans’ banter with the front row to create Candyland, where Holly the “shy and lovely” heroine learned to make friends who weren’t made of sugar.

One twist from the usual format was the team all on stage as we arrived, singing about sitting at the front of the room, and not leaving large gaps. Great fun that got you right into the show.

Obviously improvising makes it tricky to ensure the message stays one that all parents can approve of; harder still when the show is set in Candyland, but they managed a fair job of this, and Evans only had a couple of occasions where she needed to restore the family friendly balance. She got the audience involved with decisions during the plot, but could have used more of the audience’s own suggestions at the start, as picking Holly as a character could look like a plant. But these are minor issues, and the overall event was great family (and American) friendly entertainment.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Gilded Balloon Teviot

To 21st August

Times vary

Dr Bunhead’s Blast Off!

*****

A show that claims to target age 0-99 is taking a risk, but this show managed impressively near that. Before it even started, the tension was building with fast music and plenty of safety warnings, so when Dr Bunhead appeared for the warm up, the crowd were already on the edges of their seats.

The show encompased so many apsects of science, making it thoroughly educational, to please the parents, and brilliant entertainment, to please the kids. It had fire, it had flying cuddly toys, it had a mock gameshow, and a use for custard powder almost as good as it’s intended purpose. On this occasion, they even managed to throw in risking a Blue Peter presenter’s hair, but this was, I believe, a one-off.

Between fire, and space, there was a lot to learn, and to take in, but I suspect none of the children realised they were in a perfectly formed science lesson – they were having too much fun – if they weren’t too busy covering their ears!

The only minor niggle I could have is that some of those bangs are loud, so perhaps age 4-99 might have been a safer target age group.

Reviewed by Gill Smith

Assembly George Square

To 11th August

10:30 to 11:30