Best of the Kids' Fringe

This year, Fest will be dividing the Kids section into three age ranges (0-4, 4-7, 7+), making it even easier to work out the must-see shows for your family. Here's a round-up to get you started

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 7 minutes
Published 21 Jul 2011
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Younger children are spoiled for choice at this year’s Fringe, with music, storytelling, theatre and puppetry.

Magic Porridge Pot (Merchants’ Hall, Hanover St) is back for a third year running, and Spotlites’ unique brand of interactive theatre, with kids encouraged to get fully involved in the onstage action, is likely to prove as popular as ever. A production of The Enormous Turnip, by the same company, is also running at the Merchant Hall.  

For mini musos, both Baby Loves Singing, Dancing and You! (Augustine’s, George IV Bridge) and Monkey Music (Pleasance Courtyard) should strike all the right notes. Both shows give babies and toddlers the opportunity to play a variety of instruments and sing along with easy, catchy songs. If those musical tasters leave your kids wanting more, then there’s also Baby Loves Disco (Electric Circus, Market Street), which has sold out for the past two years.

As you’d expect, there are a few old classics, which are bound to please both kids and parents. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Venue 45, Jeffrey St) promises music, dancing and puppets, while James and The Giant Peach and Seussical the Musical (both Pilrig Studio, Pilrig St) are both part of the excellent American High School Theatre Festival.

On the flip side, there are also some performances of more modern children’s stories. Highlights include Hairy Maclary and Friends (Assembly, George Square), The Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business (C, Chambers St), and Stick Man Live on Stage (Udderbelly’s Pasture, Bristo Square), which received excellent reviews at the 2010 Fringe.

Even if you’re looking for a few more unusual shows, to expose your children to new stories and ideas, you won't be disappointed. The Adventurers Club – The Great Arctic Caper (Pleasance Courtyard) is about great explorers and their encounters with polar bears; Bubblewrap and Boxes (Gilded Balloon Teviot) won best family show at the Melbourne Fringe in 2009 and, with a set consisting entirely of packaging, encourages kids to use their imagination; Lapin Wants Breakfast (Scottish Storytelling Centre, High Street) is a fun puppet show in both English and French; and Under The Baobab Tree (C Too, St Columba’s by the Castle) is an enchanting introduction to African folk tales, using puppetry, masks, music and storytelling.


5-7 year olds

Unsurprisingly, there is even more diversity when it comes to shows for 5-7 year olds: science, art, history, and moonwalking all get a look in.

Book early if you want to see The Amazing Bubble Show (C Too, St Columba’s by the Castle), because the interactive show—featuring everything from square bubbles to people inside bubbles—is likely to sell out fast. So too is Bagpuss (Assembly George Square), although whether that’s because the kids want tickets, or because their parents do, is not quite so clear.

Art fans should head to Pop Up! The Amazing Adventures of Moo Dong (C, Chambers St), to see famous paintings come to life. The BIG Sing-a-long (Queens’s Hall, Clerk St) and Movin’ Melvin Brown (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art) should keep mini-musicians happy, and Round the World and Back Again (A Brief and Inaccurate History of Everything) (Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road) could be the most entertaining history lesson your kids have ever had.

Other likely hits include the five-minute adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’ award-winning The Incredible Book Eating Boy (Pleasance Courtyard), The Velveteen Rabbit (C eca, Edinburgh Art College), and The Just So Stories (Pleasance Courtyard), which you are encouraged to watch while snuggled up with your kids in a sea of duvets and cushions.

For more interactive and innovative theatre, some good options are: William (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art), where the audience are right at the heart of the story; Tim and Light (Pleasance Courtyard) which combines physical storytelling, puppetry and original music to tell a story of courage; A Stone’s Throw (Zoo Roxy, Roxburgh Place), about a girl’s quest to repair the shattered sun; and Baba Yaba (Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden), which invites audience members to undertake a musical journey through the beautiful gardens at Duddingston Kirk.

There are plenty of new and original shows for 5-7 year olds at this year’s Fringe, but that’s not to say that some classics don’t make the cut. There are no less than three Lewis Carroll adaptations: Through The Looking Glass (theSpaces on North Bridge, Carlton Hotel), Alice’s Wonderland (C, Chambers St), which promises a dark show that is part-dream, part-nightmare, and the exciting-sounding Alicia en La Loteria (Venue 45, Jeffrey St) which gives the story a spicy, Latin American twist.

Fans of myths and fairy tales are also in for a treat, with both Anderson 2011 (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art) and A Grimm Night for Hans Christian Andersen (Zoo Southside, Nicolson St) promising new takes on old stories, and the return of Greek Myths for Kids (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art) which have earned five star reviews in previous years.


7 years and above

A few brave souls are attempting to entertain older kids with comedy performances at this year’s Fringe. Comedy Club 4 Kids (The Bongo Club, Holyrood Rd) is now in its seventh year, and its enduring popularity provides some reassurance about the quality of the show. In contrast, James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids (Assembly George Square) is a brand new show, but glowing reviews already suggest that this too will be a success.

There is also some very high quality theatre, puppetry and storytelling on offer. The Chronicles of Bitter and Twisted (Assembly George Square) is a touching urban sequel to The Ugly Duckling, beautifully performed through puppetry. A newly reworked version of Macbeth (theSpaces at Surgeons Hall, Nicolson St) from the renowned Schools Shakespeare Festival makes for a passionate but accessible introduction to the Bard. The Panther’s Scream and Other Texas Tales (theSpaces on North Bridge, Carlton Hotel) is a compilation of Texas folklore and legends, told mainly through the medium of storytelling, but enhanced by live music and shadow puppetry.

For kids who like to get involved rather than simply sitting back and watching, there is no shortage of workshops: Flamenco for Kids (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art), Circus for Success (Bonaly Outdoor Centre) and Drama Workshops for 5-14s (The Merchants hall, Hanover St) from Spotlites Theatre Productions are the best on offer.

Several shows in this age range attempt to keep both introverts and extroverts happy, providing some staged action and some hands-on interaction. Toybox (The Stand Comedy Club, York Place) is a heady combination of standup and magic; Things That Go… Bump Rattle Klunk Cackle Woo! (Greenside, Royal Terrace) brings Halloween to Edinburgh a few months early, with audience members invited to cast spells alongside mad scientists, witches and werewolves; Judgestars (Gilded Balloon Teviot) sees the collision of circus, dance, and general silliness, but the kids are the final judges of who's got talent; and Peter Pan – Learn to Fly (Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny St) is an impressive aerial theatre performance, with an optional workshop after the show.

If you don’t want your kids to have a completely free ride over the summer holidays, there are a couple of shows that disguise education as entertainment. Amoeba to Zebra (The Counting House, West Nicolson St) is billed as a natural history musical, which tells the story of evolution in 14 songs. In Inventions Going Bang (Assembly George Square), meanwhile, Marty Jopson's guide to inventions brings out the spectacular side of science.