Review – Shhh…The Elves Are Very Shy

Botanic Gardens



Elves are very shy, but if you know what to do and where to look you might be able to find evidence of elves, or even a real life elf. In Shhh…The Elves Are Very Shy, Elfologist Dr. Faye Greenwood takes to the stage to teach her audience all about elves, and perhaps even introduce a few of her elvin friends. This piece of theatre for the littlest audience members and their families is a delightful multisensory experience that is accessible to all ages.

Using four facts about elves as a structure for the performance, writer and performer Charlotte Allan brings her audience on an exploration of all things elvish. We learn that elves love red things, making and dancing, and really don’t like iron. As Allan explores each of the facts with her audience, she creates an interactive multisensory space for all of her young audience members to get involved in. Whether it is making a red dotty shape, offering suggestions, enjoying the coloured scarves and other objects that are handed around, or featuring in the charming improvised song that Dr. Greenwood sings to try to persuade the elves to come out, there is a way for every audience member to get involved. Allan demonstrates a real skill for involving her audience in the story, and giving each child enough attention while still moving the narrative forward.

Though there is a text-basis for the show, language is not necessary to enjoy it as there is a strong multisensory element to the show. Allan creates signs to go along with certain key words in the show, provides pictures, plays music, hands around props, and ensures that there is no need to understand the text to understand the show. The final section of the show, the much anticipated appearance of the elves is beautifully done, with a screen in a box showing a video of the elves and giving the impression that there are actually elves in the box. Dr. Faye Greenwood drops objects into the box, and they appear in the video, perfectly in sync. This innovation and precision is an exciting and charming example of how technology can be used to create magic on stage.

In the perfect setting of the Botanic Gardens (where Dr. Greenwood has collected a number of examples of elf activity), Shhh…The Elves Are Very Shy is a beautiful piece of interactive theatre that will delight young audiences.

Shhh…The Elves Are Very Shy runs at the Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, until August 26th as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Review – Clowntown: I Can Do Anything

Clowntown: I Can Do Anything

Surgeon’s Hall

Edinburgh Fringe



“In Clowntown everyone’s funny,
In Clowntown we don’t need money,
In Clowntown nobody’s wearing a crown.”

Candy and Dandy of The Sphere Clown Band take to the stage with their various musical instruments to introduce their audience to Clowntown, a town where you can do anything. The younger members of the audience are invited onto the stage where they are made honorary members of the town council of Clowntown, and invited to dance along to a number of songs, try out Clown exercises and enjoy some magic tricks.

This production is at times an enjoyable interactive show that was well received by its younger audience, who launched themselves into “Clownercise” and their roles as zoo animals with gusto. However, though it is a lively and entertaining show, there are times at which Clowntown finds its audience drifting as the pace draws out. It does not seem confident in itself, which leaves it feeling somewhat clumsy and haphazard. While the classic trope of the clown attempting and failing comically at something was employed effectively at times, at others it felt more that the performer was not in control. The clown character may be struggling, but to retain the audience’s engagement the performer needs to retain control and confidence. As we reached the final song, “I Can do Anything,” the haphazard feeling to the piece continued. The song incorporated performance in American Sign Language, which was a nice element, but it was the first time it was introduced in the piece, seeming more of an afterthought than an intrinsic element. Similarly, the title of the song, “I Can Do Anything” was introduced as the theme of the piece (which is also mentioned in the title), but the theme was not notably present throughout the rest of the show.

Clowntown is a fun production, with good ideas and intentions which don’t quite come to fruition over the course of the show.

Clowntown: I Can Do Anything runs at the Space @ Surgeon’s Hall until August 25th as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Calvinball – Edinburgh Fringe Review

Royal Botanic Gardens

Ipdip Theatre



Have you ever played a game of Calvinball?

If not, then you should.

In a charming adventure for young children (0-5 year olds), Ipdip theatre create an energetic and enthusiastic game of Calvinball. With a missing set of rules, the performers and audience all become “playmakers” as the game develops.

The performers, Christie Russell-Brown, Robbie Gordon and Camille Marmie, play to their audience with enthusiasm and skill; they read their audience, engaging each child differently and allowing them to participate at their own pace. Composed of elements of many recognisable drama and improvisation games, the show is an open experience for each child to learn and play, with the performers engaging on a one-to-one level with the children at different points, and encouraging group play at others.

While sometimes the language used by the performers evidently goes above the heads of some of the children in the audience, the combination of language and physicality caters to both the younger and slightly older children, giving each the chance to understand it in their own way.  Where a slightly older child may understand and learn from “The Sorry Song” or the song teaching an adapted version of the Gay Gordons, for example, the young babies in the audience can enjoy the sensory experience of hearing the music, being danced with and having free access to the various props.

Calvinball is a delightful production for young audiences which encourages imagination and play in a theatrical experience that is made open and accessible to every child (and grown-up) in the audience.

Calvinball  runs at the Royal Botanic Gardens until August 27th as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Alice in Wonderland – Edinburgh Fringe Review

Not Cricket Productions

Underbelly – White Belly



Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been the subject of more adaptations than I could count, with four shows based on it in this year’s Fringe programme alone.  As a novel bathed in nonsense, fantasy and imagination, it provides myriad opportunities to explore new ways of staging it and bringing the madcap tea party, the sneezing duchess and her porcine child, the mock turtle, and the Queen of Hearts’ infamous croquet game to life. Adapted and directed by Kate Stephenson, Not Cricket Productions’ approach is a fairly traditional one, taking in most of the main parts of the story and presenting them in a recognisable manner, with Alice’s blue dress, the white rabbit’s waistcoat and the Cheshire cat’s lingering grin. However, taking this faithful approach with only an hour long show does lead to a production that feels rushed and underdeveloped.

From the very start, the direction and performance of the piece seems frantic and hurried; a whistle-stop tour of the plot. The rapid leaps from scene to scene, without any of them truly having the chance to develop, mean that the audience is left to fill in gaps or expand on brief exposition. While this is possible (though not ideal) for an older audience member who may know the story, for the young audience it is aimed at it could be confusing, and leave a patchy impression of a classic story. This frenetic pacing is exacerbated by performances that begin and remain at a high, overwrought level that not only unbalances the emotional energy of the piece, but results in lines being lost in the speed of their delivery.

Fitting in with Carroll’s vivid and varied childlike world, the costume and prop designs were, though simple and makeshift (with pink umbrellas as flamingos, an old bathtub as the mock turtle’s shell, and some lanterns to denote the Cheshire Cat), effective in conveying the idea of a child’s imaginative world. Taken on its own, this is a strong point of the production, but added to the direction and performances as described before, there were certain points at which the combination gave the show a disjointed air.

Overall this production tries to do too much and overstretches, including introducing musical numbers that fall flat, audience interaction that distracts by overlapping with onstage action, and aesthetic ideas that are not followed through on. Though it presents interesting and promising ideas, Alice in Wonderland feels like a production that has been put on stage while still in a workshop state.

Alice in Wonderland runs at Underbelly, Cowgate, until 27th August.