It is 200 years since the birth of Edward Lear, the fabulous Bard of Nonsense, who popularised the limerick and invented fantastically ridiculous words and rhymes. The words beg to be spoken aloud, to be rolled impressively round the tongue and relished – yet as there are no obvious meanings attached to those individual words, you can largely make of it what you will.
The same was refreshingly true of this production of The Jumblies, presented by Theatre Paradok, Edinburgh University’s alternative theatre society. They have taken some of the wonderful words and surreal stories of Lear’s work and wittily woven them together so that, in typical Lear fashion, the tale can be clearly understood while making absolutely no sense at all.
The plot followed The Jumblies setting sail in their sieve to the hills of the Chankly Bore. We watched the love story unfold between the Jumbly Girl and the Dong With The Luminous Nose and gained some insight into how it came to be that the Jumblies returned home so tall. Those versed in Lear will already be aware that the Quangle Wangle’s Hat was one hundred and two feet wide, but we learned how it was that the Quangle Wangle managed to stay large enough to keep that hat on his head.
The Owl and the Pussycat, behaving like the charming old married couple they now are, played a key role and should, it would seem, take some responsibility for the loneliness the Dong has endured since he was left alone on the cruel shore.
This was clever, surprising and ingenious fun, powered by some fine, energetic performances. The cast were roaming the auditorium, interacting in a jocular fashion with the audience before the performance began. Yet, knowing how much children love being part of the show, it was a pity that there was no role for them once the performance began.
Despite the paucity of participation, the young ones loved the spectacle and nonsense of it all. This was, at times, reminiscent of early Python (and no greater compliment could be paid), but while the absurd humour was loudly enjoyed by us bigger ones, it rather obviously sailed over the heads of the younger crew.
However, there is undoubtedly the germ of something a bit special about this company. There is real talent here that, if nurtured, developed and pitched to the right audience, would certainly be one to look out for in the future.
Show Times: Running until 11th Aug, 11.15am
Ticket Prices: £6.50 (£5.50)