The Christmas Quangle Wangle, North Edinburgh Arts Centre
ALL of us armchair travellers know that polar bears are not cuddly. They may look cute when wee – but cuddly? Nope. A bear hug could kill you – unless the bears are really Eilidh MacAskill and Fiona Manson in white furry Arctic clobber, their faces perkily painted and with black button snouts. Aaaaw... by the end, the under-fives are set on wraparound bear hugs and wondering if Big Bear (MacAskill) and Little Bear (Manson) will stay playing with them on the set.
That set (designed by Claire Halleran) looks a simple array of triangles, but as little doors open or lids pop up, lots of objects appear to help our intrepid bears on their exploration across the icy wastes. There's no text, but what emerges is an easy to relate to sound poem: the skis go clitter-clatter-clack, meals are percussive events with pans and spoons serving up jazzy rhythms while the foil that crinkles into icebergs is simply magical. This look-and-listen approach is underpinned by the quirky characterisation the performers bring to their respective bears, and the lovely camaraderie between them. Like the tiny model bears that finally ascend the mountain-top, this lovable show scales entertaining heights for tinies.
Elsewhere in the MacBob, there's a sound and light installation for the very young – age 0 to 2 – and their parents. Called Multi-Coloured Blocks from Space, it has glow balls that roll about, changing colour and a "magic carpet" where a mosaic of blue squares ripples and shifts while relaxing electronic music loops in the background. It's a chillax experience for babies, but it works best when they actually engage with the objects. And a gentle change of tempo during the half-hour session would add to the fun.
Clare McGarry's Grinagog company is acquiring an enviable back catalogue of goodies for 3-to-6-year-olds. While she's on tour with Little Ulla, she's left Twinkle Bell in the capable hands of Eilidh McCormick and Chris Alexander – tho' even they can't prevent the little Fairy doll from being whisked away from her place at the top of the Christmas tree and out into the wide, wide world. If small bottom lips tremble at the thought of Twinkle Bell being lost in the snow – especially when the cut-out set opens up on alpine vistas – the smiles are soon back in place as various kindly but eccentric bods appear with helpful advice and joining-in action songs to cheer Twinkle Bell up. Yee-hah! It's finally Sparklehorse to the rescue, with a small volunteer from the audience allowed to have a little trot on this glittery steed herself – and there you have a very real part of this show's charm. It's not just for little ones, it actively involves them.
Licketyspit are now the resident theatre company at North Edinburgh Arts Centre, and this revival of Virginia Radcliffe's celebration of Edward Lear's nonsense rhymes is a joyful start to this association. Ashley Smith and Scott Fletcher are the lonesome Stella and Stan who stumble into the fantasy world of the Quangle Wangle, the Jumblies and the Dong with the Luminous Nose. They make Lear's language come juicily alive, reciting verses as they dress up and act out the stories with a rollicking energy that comes from the heart. "It's all nonsense." laughs he. "But it's good nonsense," chuckles she. And it is.