Just So Stories Review
There are any number of shows at the Fringe designed specifically for children, but very few are performed by young people themselves. Newbury Youth Theatre (NYT), founded over 28 years ago for young people aged between 14 and 21 years, returns to the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe for the 16th consecutive year.
This year’s show is a performance based on Kipling’s Just So Stories. First published in 1902, the stories are fantastical explanations of how various animals acquired their particular characteristics. The NYT treated us to a novel enactment of four of these.
The scene that greeted the audience on arrival was of about 15 or so very dirty and dishevelled young people lying asleep slumped in, on or over piles of old suitcases. All were dressed in long, beige shorts and shirts with knee-length socks and lace-up boots – very reminiscent of the early scout uniform, which dated the show appropriately to about the time that it was written.
There was also a very smart captain in a clean white uniform, sitting to one side playing the guitar, which hinted that these young people were perhaps stowaways on board a ship.
Once awake, the scruffy crew lined up and performed their morning routine ablutions, passing a bucket and dirty cloth down the line for a wash and a toothbrush and cup to share for a quick wipe across the teeth. Each young person then stated what they hoped to find when they finally reached the shores of a new and foreign land.
This evocative opening sequence then dovetailed seamlessly into the telling of the Just So Stories. The first, How the Camel got his Hump, told of how a djinn (‘genie’ in English) put a hump on the camel’s back as a punishment for being lazy, as this meant that he could then work longer without needing a break for food or drink.
Next came the tale of the Elephant’s Child and the ‘satiable curtiosities’ that led him to have his useless, bulgy nose stretched into a far more beneficial trunk. We also learned why the rhinoceros has wrinkly skin and a bad temper (because of the cake crumbs stuck inside) and finally that the whale has a tiny throat because a swallowed mariner tied his raft there to prevent the whale from swallowing others.
The show ended neatly with the young people grabbing their suitcases and dashing ashore excitedly shouting about the creatures they hoped to see, repeated from the opening sequence.
This was a very cleverly put together show with excellent staging and choreography that showcased some rather fine performances. This was all the more impressive when considering the relatively young age of the performers who really did give it their all, producing a highly entertaining, energetic and enthusiastic performance to be proud of.
Ran from 6th – 11th Aug