Rumpelstiltskin and the Wheel of Fortune
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Climb a Willow Tree to the Sea God's Palace
theSpace on Niddry Street
The Golden Goose
Spotlites@The Merchant's Hall
Before the lights go down, a cheery, avuncular wizard with a satyr's beard and Prospero's coat whisks into the theatre and starts giving the giggling and enchanted audience "fairy names". Performer Andy Lawrence then seamlessly transitions into the show proper, having had the audience from the word "go." Or , more probably, from the words "Dean Diddly Do Da Day."
Rumpelstiltskin is another finely crafted piece of children's theatre from Theatre of Widdershins, at the always rewarding Scottish Storytelling Centre. The puppets are, by turns, wizened, wicked, and wide-eyed, and the clever design doesn't stop there. The set pieces and props aren't just decorating, but multi-use gateways to gold, far-off kingdoms, and a dungeon. The sound and music design are spooky, atmospheric and note-perfect. But enough about the techy stuff. This is a traditional show, told with traditional, cracking, old-fashioned storytelling panache. And it works - the kids loved it.
That isn't always the case. But that's no reflection of the performance, more of the quixotic attention spans of the wee ones. There were few children (and no quiet ones) at Climb a Willow Tree, but the adults in attendance were treated to painted-before-your-eyes backgrounds, a bit too much shrill crying, and some imaginative puppetry.
Korean company Kumdongi Puppet Theatre, fresh from a tour in Shenyang, China, bring their bizarre story of two brothers, reincarnation and dreams to life with puppets showing an amazing range of movement and emotion. The production is entirely in Korean, with English description slides and a translation of the dialogue in the programme. This makes it a trifle difficult to follow, and impossible for children who cannot yet read well. But the action is engaging, and the live backdrop painting is a really lovely touch.
For the littlest theatre lovers, Spotlites has come up with another toddler-friendly show in their telling of The Golden Goose. The wee ones are invited on stage repeatedly, and small gifts are given out to keep them busy while the story keeps them engaged. Entreaties to "copy" and "help" were eagerly taken up by my wee friend David, and he loved his paper hat and golden feather.
This is a gentle and instructive introduction for those nervous parents looking to take the kids for their first taste of live performance. No disruption actually disrupts. The actors are very good at interacting with the youngsters, though sometimes less successful at getting them to leave the stage but all is in good fun. The unctuous tone and simplicity of the narrative may have a few parents nodding off, but the critics that matter enjoyed the show and had the souvenirs to prove it.
Last shows today and Monday