Theatre

Hidden Door

Abandoned Street Lighting Depot, Edinburgh

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Neil Cooper

Four stars

MAKE the most of Hidden Door, the now annual nine-day festival of grassroots art, music and performance, which opened this weekend. This year it styles itself as The Electric City in honour of its sprawling temporary home off King's Stables Road, which will soon be converted into yet another soulless development. This despite Hidden Door proving the hunger for such an enterprise on a more permanent basis.

The theatre programme opened with a new take on Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi by Edinburgh-based international collective, The Ludens Ensemble. Four Pierrot-faced actors in identi-kit junkshop outfits took on Jarry's gloriously puerile reinvention of Macbeth and invested it with a kitchen-sink's worth of styles. Philippos Philippou's wilfully messy work in progress featured grotesque puppets, live video feeds and animated projections, while an entire battle scene was acted out in shadowplay in a way that gives juvenalia a good name.

In Bones, story-teller Annie Lord looked at the history of King's Stables Yards as a slaughterhouse and tannery, transforming it into an intimate form of oral history that weaved various strands together to form a quietly evocative flesh and blood scenario. Outside, the courtyard itself burst into a riot of noise and colour courtesy of Cultured Mongrel, whose children's show, Experts in Short Trousers, put its young audience at the centre of a strange world in which the five performers have just landed. Using nonsense language, acrobatics and beat-boxing, Cultured Mongrel's quintet of playful aliens gleefully ushered in a participatory celebration that captured the joyous spirit of Hidden Door itself. All this and much more continues over the next week.