Imaginate

Mouth Open, Story Jump Out

Church Hill Theatre Studio, Edinburgh

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FIVE STARS

The Bockety World of Henry and Bucket

Festival Theatre Studio, Edinburgh

FOUR STARS

The Lost Things

Southside Community Centre, Edinburgh

THREE STARS

A Mano

Traverse, Edinburgh

FOUR STARS

Waves

Traverse, Edinburgh

FOUR STARS

Mary Brennan

When he was a little lad, Steven Camden's dad told him "a lie is selfish, a story is a gift." Now Camden - aka Polarbear - is passing on that mantra to audiences aged 8+, in an exuberant one-man show that makes everyone an accomplice in the act and art of story-telling. He's one sharp patter-merchant is Polarbear: a big, affable Brummie who has kids bouncing up and down, responding to his call for ideas - sensible, wacky or fantastical - to feed into instant mini-tales. The whole room gets electric as suggestions snap! crackle! and pop out of young mouths and Polarbear merrily melds them together while filtering in his own poignant childhood story. One night, his story-telling Dad just up and leaves. Next day, at school, Steven spins a web of exciting lies packed full of secret missions that keep his dad globe-trotting away from home. It all backfires, because his classmates truly believe his fictions - the fine (and moral) line between lies and story-telling rings true in the way he tells it. His real gift to young audiences, however, is the big, juicy fun he brings to creating your own stories - small fans left clutching his "how to..." pamphlet.

Just so you know, "bockety" means wobbly. In fact, the Kilkenny-based Barnstorm Theatre Company are wickedly sure-footed with their Samuel Becket meets Heath-Robinson two-hander, The Bockety World of Henry and Bucket. On a set full of down-and-out clutter and racketty contraptions, this Vladimir and Estragon for 4 to 8 year olds wake up, execute their daily rituals - and then fall out over petty differences of opinion. Their prickly spats are gloriously high-handed and ridiculous, but the comic talents of Paul Curley and John Currivan mean they time the Beckett-y phrasings and pauses with telling rhythms born of custom and habit. These are old friends, with well-worn responses and when schism looms - whatever our age, we feel it keenly, and long for camraderie to be restored.There's touching humanity amidst the hilarity, all directed with a light touch by Sarah Argent.

Tortoise in a Nutshell and Oliver Emanuel are on their way to creating a brilliantly scary, but heart-rending and memorable show for 9+ audiences. Some tweaking of sight-lines in their dim-lit black tent - maybe some adjusting of lighting levels so as audiences can see and appreciate the wit and craft of the "lost objects" on the walls - and the full impact of Emanual's plot-line will grip young and old alike. Something has made a little boy run so fast, he falls. Falls into some limbo where lost things, including a little girl, live in gloom and shadows. She's building a robot from stuff she's scavenged - but she needs a heart to bring it to life. Suddenly the friendship developing between the two lantern-faced puppets twists into even darker territory and we're looking at other kinds of loss: the loss of happiness, security, innocence even, when home is where abuse, violence and emotional neglect sends a child running into the night, afraid. Already dramatically powerful and visually striking, The Lost Things is the kind of puppet-play that excels in telling bitter-sweet flesh-and-blood stories.

There's no spoken text in A Mano. Instead, it's the fingers that do the talking in this beguilingly quaint production by El Patio Teatro (Spain). Wonderfully flexible fingers that can conjure bits of clay into heads, and those heads into little puppet characters who find humour and pathos in a deftly-nuanced quest for love, freedom, happiness. Elizabeth Moncello, whose story is vividly recounted by Alice Mary Cooper in her solo show,Waves, had a quest of her own: to swim not just with the fishes but like them. This courageous, obstinate Australian originated the Butterfly stroke and in defiance of all the rules won Olympic Gold in Berlin 1936. Cooper's mischievous, affectionate story-telling is a joy in itself, but the sincerity she brings to honouring Moncello makes her performance an inspiring gift to her 8+ audiences.