White – Traverse Theatre

Creator: Andy Manley

Director: Gill Robertson

Profoundly simplistic, though magnanimous in spiritual creativity, White may label itself as a show for the youngest theatregoers, but its aesthetics, humour and sharp imagery are of a timeless piece. Pitching itself towards the younger crowd, but refraining from simplicity, cooing or pander. Its narrative follows Cotton and Wrinkle, two chaps who task themselves as egg-carers. As these precious parcels arrive, they are cleaned, given homes and sung to sleep. That is, of course, assuming the egg is white. With the arrival of a crimson egg, starkly contrasting the bleached backdrops, Wrinkle wants to toss it into the bin where all colour belongs, Cotton, on the other hand, has another idea.

With sophistication, Andy Manley projects the difficulties we overcome in acceptance, transforming White into a rather splendid piece of family theatre. Carrying this, Michael Dylan & Ian Cameron frolic amidst this medley of textures, levels and fabrics all stitched together into this immaculate world. Rich in humour, Dylan & Cameron expresses a range facially, the easiest way of communication with not only a younger audience but those without voices, hearing impairment and non-English speakers. It’s accessible, if a little reliant on words, where a deal of movement could communicate effectively.

Catherine Wheels have a purity to their theatrical creations, which are sublime to look at, you’ll often find yourself gazing at the smallest of details in the background, wondering what this gizmo could be leading towards. As one may imagine, the set is devoid of colour, in its absence, varying shades of white, from cotton to ivory. It’s gorgeous to see designer Shona Reppe sculpt such clean, pleasing theatre despite the age range of the audience.

Lifting the performance, Reppe’s design plays an even more staggering role as the production’s infection of colour pervades against this white canvas. A warmth is tangible, as these bursts of inclusivity, from the noxious yellows to the royalist purple, are met with great cheers from the children. It’s enchanting, with a wide number of tricks, transformations and effects concealing themselves away from curious children’s prying eyes.

As these eyes soak in a rainbow of colour, a subtle composition has been pleasing the ears for some time. It’s an understated score, courtesy of Danny Krass, which compliments the production, without attempting to steer attention away. Lifting where required, specifically for an explosive finale where the final message is clear, to take the colours you see, keep them close and let your life be bright, inclusive and include every shade imaginable.

This all concocts a magical production, which seeds the idea of acceptance, regardless of colour, from an early age. White manifests a spectrum of sentiments, in such a short space of time, that it’s a wonder to think about long after the little, and not so little ones, have left the theatre.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/white-traverse-theatre-edinburgh/

Photo Credit: HAM, courtesy ASK

The Adventures of Curious Ganz – Assembly Roxy

Directed by Sarah Wright

Words by Anna Maria Murphy

Puppetry offers a form to the imagination that few other mediums can capture. Benefiting from a physical dimension, it takes an edge over animation, cinema and lighting effects. It makes our dreams, our hopes, and even our nightmares, significantly tangible. The Adventures of Curious Ganz told with miniatures, string and rod puppets is an enchanting piece which delves into history, alchemy and the stars.

Curiosity is, like its sibling necessity, a catalyst of science, imagination and adventure. Glossing over the colonial aspects of exploration, Curious Ganz tells the tale of a small, nosy man who is never without his trusty magnifying glass. Setting out on the open ocean, or the deepest mines of Peru in search of something, anything, Ganz encounters a familiar royal who herself finds interest in the world beyond the River Thames.

From Queen Lizzy the First to the Duffers, and even a disgustingly adorable caterpillar, Sarah Wright’s lead set and puppet design from a team consisting of Lyndie Wright, Liz Walker, Alice King, Mae Voogd, Katie Williams & Luke Wood are exceptional. Basing their production on the life of copper smelter Joachim Gans, the ability to shift us from the universe’s beginning to the stench of old London seamlessly is a testament of their profession. Liz Walker, Avye Leventis/Nix Wood and Ailsa Dalling’s conduct a wealth of tales from their fingertips, straying from drama to comedy and into touching moments with ease.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be children’s theatre without some countermanding fear to balance the sickeningly charming characters. In his bid to stifle science and maintain his authority in the Queen’s court, the Prime Minister may have a small role but it showcases the inventiveness of the Little Angel Theatre. Defiant that the world is flat, the puppet of the Prime Minister looms over model earth, with a tiny boat heading towards the edge. As he warns of sea monsters, leviathans and beasts, enormous puppet creatures sway back and forth around him. Sharply crafting him, his features strike imposing shadows on the cold stone of the Assembly theatre.That’s the thing about ‘kid’s shows, in an audience with one child -there are many more adults- it’s evidence of our appetite for shows such as Curious Ganz.

Unfortunately, there is some incoherence with the narrative, which causes the imagination to come off the reigns. It leads to the climax feeling rushed, bombastically throwing a great deal at the audience, and when contrasted with the slow, simple opener as the universe evolves, seems heavy on visuals, and light on reserved storytelling.

Understandably, this eruption of creativity comes from a place of enthusiasm. Which is what you’ll find heaping’s off throughout Curious Ganz, passionate storytelling which stumbles on its coattails to showcase as much delightful puppetry as possible in the fifty-minute runtime. Offering a revised insight into historical discovery, with delightful puppets of all shapes and sizes, Little Angel Theatre and Silent Ride are alchemists of storytelling, spinning wood, plastic and string into gold.

Review originally published for The Wee Review: https://theweereview.com/review/the-adventures-of-curious-ganz/