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Review: Imaginate

Not Now Bernard

Not Now Bernard

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

If Only Rosa Could Do Magic

Artspace, Edinburgh

O Snap

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

MUM'S busy, dad's busy - and no-one ever has time for Bernard. Mum's got urgent work stuff, Dad's got urgent work stuff - and, despite promises and lots of presents, there's no time to play games or sing Rosa to sleep. If parents in the audience wince at how both scenarios play out, the youngsters (for whom these shows were made) readily engage with the fanciful treatment of a sad reality, and laugh uproariously at the different ways Bernard and Rosa behave in the face of loneliness, boredom, and - to be brutally honest - neglect.

In each case, the comedy gusto comes about courtesy of some sublime clowning skills from the solo performers. In Not Now Bernard, a show for two to five-year-old created by Unicorn Theatre (England), there's a lovely balance between broad strokes of slapstick - to the fore when Rhys Rusbatch is bumbling about in his bulbous purple monster suit - and the nuanced expressiveness of his body language as the little boy who seems totally surplus to his parents' lives. Sliding doors and clever large-scale cutouts (with moving parts) help to capture the feel of David McKee's iconic picture book, but it's Rusbatch who gets under the skin of Bernard, as well as the monster.

Red nose on, and Norway's Katja Brita Lindeberg is Rosa, acting like a little princess in a personal kingdom where everything is in the pink and rosy-tinted - except her relationship with her (mostly absent) parents. Lindeberg is one of those artlessly clutzy clowns who readily falls over, revealing her bloomers to the delight of the five to nine-year-olds, who gleefully shout out advice when she decides it's time to magic up the kind of world she wants. Of course, all the business with catching farts and harvesting snot is good rude fun, but the bleakness of her isolation creeps up on us, and on the unsuspecting man she recruits from the front row to be her surrogate dad. Tee-hee. But the sting in this high-spirited tale is how much Rosa hurts... and how her audience totally understands that that's not funny.

If you have friends, however, you can face the rollercoaster rhythms of life and dance to whatever beat grabs your feet. O Snap (for 12+ audiences) is another of Dutch company Arch8's dynamic dance pieces where the stamina, technique and personality of the dancers keep spectators enthralled even as the choreography shades in the kind of games play, rivalries, solidarity and camaraderie that are part of growing up and finding out who you are. Fierce, fun and with a totally wild music mix.

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