Ali the Magic Elf

Tron, Glasgow – four stars


Potterow Studio, Edinburgh – three stars

Upstairs, in the Changing Room, there’s a workshop where shelves are stacked with bits and bobs for making toys. They’re all for Santa’s sacks on Christmas Eve... Only – according to musicians/narrators Simon Donaldson and Christina Gordon – it’s already December 24th, and the toys aren’t finished. Where’s Ali, the elf who’s making them? What follows is an utterly beguiling show for ages 3-6 years, in which Ali (Ramesh Meyyappan) gets into a real fankle, before Santa’s magic dust sorts everything out.

Writer/director Andy Arnold has astutely tailored the story, and the comedy business, to showcase Meyyapan’s tremendous mime and conjuring skills and his warm-hearted, affable personality. Tinies soon adore him: giggling at his mishaps but clearly wanting him to succeed. Donaldson and Gordon – playing various instruments between them – fill in the background story, but also introduce some BSL ‘words’ by explaining that Ali can’t hear voices. There is huge charm and visual appeal throughout – by the end, the tinies are shaking little jingly bells and making ‘jazz hands’ to show Meyyapan how much fun they’ve had.

There’s lots of enchanting detail, too, in Flutter, a co-production between Tortoise in a Nutshell and Freshly Squeezed Productions for ages 2-6 years. Even before we reach the snow-covered landscape, there are wee nesting boxes to peek into where hibernating critters are snug and snoozing. The storyline is simple: two sisters – Christie Mitchell and Hannah Venet – are making-believe their back garden is a polar landscape where, along with their toy penguin, they can have slip-sliding, snowball throwing adventures. The cleverly managed puppetry makes the penguin into a wonderfully mischievous character, popping up all over the set – which then reveals other whimsical surprises inside snowy mounds and even a dustbin. Jim Harbourne’s music has scene-setting atmospheres, Mitchell and Venet cheerfully lark about – and wee ones get to explore for themselves at the end.

Mary Brennan