Despite the insanity that Edinburgh school terms start only a week or so after the festival begins – and two days after the Edinburgh Book Festival starts!! – I decided to make the most of this and just go do a show with Miss Kitty every day this week.
Day one was a typically rainy affair, visiting the Pleasance, normally Edinburgh University territory – I’ve been there in the past for a medieval dance group – and right next to their gym complex. It’s going to be refurbished and so I’m not sure if the Fringe can use it next year – it’s a real rabbit warren but I have a fondness for it’s victorian bizarre layout. Today we were down in the cellar, seeing Andon Theatre Company perform “Fairly Tales“.
Summary: two very talented young actors, in their 20s, perform a story about two boys (in school uniform) discovering a mutual love of traditional type fair(l)y stories and recreating them ‘for real’ in their backgardens, which join by a dodgy fence with a gap. They have an exciting journey through a magical landscape, complete with princesses, trolls, witches, wolves and a flatulent cow. No really. Her name is Mary.
Props: Absolutely minimal. The Cellar is small and intimate, with children invited to sit on the front row if comfortable. I made sure Miss K knew where I was sitting, so she could come and hug if need be (and she did find the wolf and troll bits a little unsettling for a minute). There are two rotating screens, with a plain curtain on the back, sheets of perspex that the actors draw on with magic wipers and that’s pretty much it. There’s a holder for the sheets but that isn’t part of the performance.
Performance: both guys gave it their absolute all – they were great. I was initially a bit ‘oh god two blokes pretending to be kids and not talking like kids have done since… I don’t know, grange hill circa 1978?’ but I was completely won over. I sincerely hope that someone sees their work who can a) give them more work and b) sticks them on the telly, because I think they’re very good indeed. What gets to you isn’t how slick and well rehearsed it is (and they clearly know it backwards) but their absolute integrity – if they weren’t so sweaty at the end I’d have shaken their hands. They remind me what live theatre is about and I think it is worth about 100 times the shouty, loud, over-done performance of say a certain Dr Seuss show which spends a lot of time flogging hats outside the door. *cough*
Take home message: Don’t just read books, try playing the stories with your friends and let them get mashed up and exciting – play! write! read! [Ed. I love it].
Miss Kitty’s review: “I thought they were very good. I got a bit scared but I’m glad there wasn’t anything bad happening to the boys. I wanted to talk to them more [Ed. She is very very big on audience participation, of which there is absolutely none. A bit unusual but it works for this show.] I give it a 20 out of 20 and think my friend P (a boy) would like it too.” (there is no higher praise).
ASD/SEN notes: The cellar is dark and quite small but it is not a problem for kids to be near their parents or move around as needed. I wouldn’t think it is great for kids who need to be very mobile or have a lot of stimming, as they will be near the front of the performance and in view of other kids, which might be stressful for them if not near parents. It is not easily accessible for wheelchairs or other mobility issues, as it is down steep steps and the seating is very close together. Lighting is ok – it gets very low before the show but there are zero big bangs, flashes, strobes or other effects. Ditto sound effects, beyond a bit of microphone use at the beginning and during the character sequences (wolf/troll/narrator). Some children will need a bit of explanation that the boys are pretending to be the story characters and that they are not going to hurt each other.
At the end of the show, each child – and parent! – was given a special pencil with the Andon Theatre logo to go and write their own stories, which was a really nice touch.
Miss Kitty rating: 20/20
Mama Scissors rating: ditto.
I recommend catching these young men before they go on to do very good things.
p.s. photo shows us being captured by Albee Vector Sound Collector, who thought we’d been to his show!