Edinburgh’s Christmas has begun and The Famous Spiegeltent is back in St. Andrew Square, hosting what promises to be a fabulous programme of performances to suit all ages and appeal to all tastes.
Just now, the Square looks like the sort of winter wonderland scene fronting many a chocolate box this time of year – perhaps a bit kitsch for some, but festive and cheery to all except the most grumpy of old men bah-humbugging about (and there are a few!). Among the market stalls, food huts and cafes, there’s a carousel and even an ice rink, where couples cling together as they wobble or glide, all dressed up in the traditional bobble hats and woolly mittens. By the time you reach the Spiegeltent, nestled in the midst of all this, you can’t help feeling a bit hyped up and ready for some Christmas action.
This year’s show for the younger audience is Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man. As her books have sold literally millions of copies all over the world, you know you’re in safe hands with the former children’s laureate as far as a good story goes. The success of Stick Man on stage therefore depends both on the inventiveness of Scamp Theatre’s adaptation and the energy, engagement and skill of the performers.
Stick Man, for those who don’t already know, ‘lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three’. One day, while out for a jog, Stick Man encounters a number of dangers, each one taking him further from home. Just when his family have all but given up hope of ever seeing him again, he is found by Father Christmas who delivers him safely home on Christmas Day. Aah and hurrah!
Three performers told the tale. Nik Howden played Stick Man himself, while Nancy Trotter Landry and Gordon Cooper performed all other roles, with Cooper also playing a number of different musical instruments and various noise-makers. The staging was witty and clever, with some of the difficulties of bringing this story into a theatre, having been resolved with a beautiful simplicity. It was gentle and fun, and provided just enough opportunities for the wee ones to shout out and join in a bit to ensure they didn’t get too restless.
The problem was that it all felt just a bit flat. In children’s theatre these days, the bar has been raised significantly - and audience’s expectations along with it. The staging lacked the startling ingenuity that can be found elsewhere and the performers lacked the oomph, energy and generally whacky style needed to generate some excitement out of it. That said, it will nevertheless provide a very decent and enjoyable hour of entertainment for all the family.
Runs until 4th January 2015, 11am & 1.30pm