For Families Reviews


The story of Sigurd is an old one and is, given the Festival background here better known to some of you as the basis of Wagner's opera Siegfried and the Ring Cycle. The source however is the Völsunga saga dating back to the 11th century. Not the ideal preparation for a children's show you might think. Think again. In this latest re-telling of the legend, SOOP have created a show that should do well with younger audiences. With just five cast members, a puppet and some simple props they re-tell the legend in an enjoyable and accessible way without resorting to state of the art effects or a multi-media extravaganza.

The story is essentially a simple one of treachery, wrong-doing, dragon slaying, love potions and tragedy. With so much to pack into an hour's show, there is a lot for children to follow and the action is pacey, but not too fast.

With a sweeping tale and a cast of characters worthy of any epic saga the members of SOOP of course have multiple roles to play, except Ed Owen-Jones who plays our hero with just enough ham and charm in equal measure. The rest of the cast are all on their toes and play their parts with relish. Alistair Smyth, who has clearly seen Monty Python and plays female roles accordingly even though he has a lovely moustache. Corinna Jane is equally as ferocious as a warrior or heroine and Daniel Scott has no lines to speak but still makes an impression - you'll see why when you see the show. Caine Stanton adds a comedic turn as both son and daughter one of whom is ringer for a certain member of the royal family.

The show is listed as a family one, but for children aged 9 and over. I couldn't get any of mine to go along, but I'd say they missed out. An enjoyable show that should play well with young audiences.

Ian Parker Heath

LIONEL BART'S OLIVER! - Harpur Hill Primary School

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! What a fantastic couple of hours spent in the company of the children, staff, parents and supporters of Harpur Hill Primary school.

Anyone who ever had a child knows how difficult it is to get them to do anything you want them to do - multiply that by who knows how many and the result could be pure chaos, but not tonight. Tonight was a wonderful example of hard work, team spirit and pure enjoyment. I may run out of superlatives before this review is done.

The children of Harpur Hill Primary school performed this show in March and enjoyed it so much they wanted to do it again as their end of year production. Their enjoyment showed.

Where to start? The set and props were all made from scratch by the children themselves in afterschool clubs over seen by Faye - all schools should have a 'Faye'! She did not make things easy for herself - some of the scenery was unwieldy, bulky and a bit precarious, but my goodness it was worth it. The London skyline on the proscenium, the dual role of the door, the carry on personal props and that feat of cardboard engineering, London Bridge itself, have all been put together with precision and attention to detail. The scene changes were expertly, quickly and quietly done. I was pleased to see them in the curtain call!

Costumes - always a tricky area - well done to all involved in this. No mean achievement to get all those children looking like workhouse and /or street children and/ or Fagin's gang and / or street vendors and / or revellers in the Three Cripples Pub. Similarly make up, hats, hair etc.

Getting all those children to sing and move in unison - again a tough job - achieved by Mrs Wheeldon. I suspect the adult cast were a tougher proposition, but they did a sterling job with as much enthusiasm as the children. 'I shall scream' was inspired and brilliantly performed by Jane Brzozowski and Mr O'Connor.

The changes to the dialogue and inclusion or omission of some of the songs was well decided. This is, as Dickens often was, a very dark and powerful story and some of the themes do not need to be explored too deeply by this age group of children. It also meant that the show ran to an optimum time. School chairs were not built for comfort!

As for the performance itself - Fantastic!!! Everyone was word perfect - always a good start. With a few ad libs here and there!! The enthusiasm and gusto with which each child performed was wonderful to see. Mr O'Connor said that they 'not only knew their parts, but everyone else's as well' how right he was. I loved the mix of adults and children. Dave Knowles, 'Fagin', and Simeon Colton, 'Bill Sykes' and Alison Rushworth, 'Nancy', would not disgrace any stage or production. Leah Plant 'Oliver' and Callum Bradd 'Dodger' get special mention due to the volume of lines and their solo singing performances which were excellent, but really, every single child played their part brilliantly and (mostly) stayed in character even when not on the stage or in the main action. There are a few budding 'stars' and I will watch with interest to see if any go on to further performances.

I was looked after royally by the staff and children who all confessed to having had enormous fun and to having learnt a lot about this by gone age when children did not have such a good time of it as they do now. All had much praise for Mrs Renton who was the main driver of this amazing group of people. Being part of a show teaches everyone so much about their abilities, working as part of a team and instils confidence. The wholly holistic atmosphere at this school made me wish my children were still small so I could send them here.

A lovely school, lovely people, wonderful children, fantastic production! I don't think that there are any tickets left for Wednesday's final performance - but you could try. This really was a terrific effort and a most enjoyable evening out. It was their first foray into the Fringe, I do hope they will come again. Thank you once more.

Linda McAlinden

PAN-O-RAMA by Tom Crawshaw - REC Youth Theatre Company

The fringe is usually dominated by one-person shows. Rare is it to find a play with a cast of more than 3. So what a treat to see a play boasting a talented cast of 11. REC Theatre Company is a youth theatre. Hence, they can afford to mount a (relatively) huge cast production; no pesky adults with bills to pay.

Pan-O-Rama is written (especially for the company?) by Tom Crawshaw, whose writing seems to be all over the fringe. I, for one, have reviewed another - very different - play by him, Not The Messiah. He certainly is prolific.

Pan-O-Rama is Peter Pan by any other name, though eagle-eyed children will spot allusions to other more contemporary fiction - Harry Potter and Lord of the Flies both feature quite heavily.

After a somewhat shaky start, the talented cast were soon well into their stride. Ably led by Siobhan Piercy as Harriet and James Chetwood as Pan, who both displayed fine comic timing, the whole ensemble attacked the piece with gusto and enthusiasm. I especially enjoyed Ben Edmens' amusing turn as Mumblemore the wizard; a one-joke character worthy of The Fast Show.

Spotting theatrical/literary allusions proved as much fun as following the story, with many well-known, well-loved characters appearing in slightly altered form. Crawshaw crams his script with achingly bad puns and, if at times, it drifts dangerously close to pantomime, that merely provides another rich seam of material to mine.

Simply staged, but with slightly too much 'everybody off' swiftly followed by 'everybody back on', the cast are well-drilled by director Jason Hudson, who has left everyone enough room to explore their respective characters. This cast really own their material and exploit every opportunity for humour.

A thoroughly entertaining entertainment for the whole family, which the children in the audience enjoyed almost as much as the adults. Following the theme of the play, I hope these young performers never grow up to be cynical old thespians and always retain their capacity for fun and playing, for herein lays the germ of all good theatre.

Malcolm Lomax


TINY! puppets

It must have been the hottest day in Buxton, this year and a Saturday too! The Pavilion Gardens was bursting with picnickers, cricketers, the 'frisbie families' and sunbathers.

I passed the first test, which was to find the crew of stone & water, across the train tracks and past the paddling families, they were sat in the shade of an oak tree surrounded by a dozen quietly busy children with some mothers and fathers looking on.

A child asked the 'captain' who was encouraging their creative activity, "How old are you and what is your name?" He replied, "I am 435 years old and I'm often called Toad".

While I was there, children came and went. They left smiling, proudly clutching their completed models, pirate boats with sails and portholes, pipe cleaner pirates with frowning faces wielding tiny cutlasses. I watched as one shy girl constructed 'Princess Pirate' with a pink flowing dress, like an image from a Disney fantasy.

It was a haven of quietness as children patiently cut shapes of cloth for tiny clothing, shapes of coloured card to make boats and faces, carefully drawing and colouring small details to create their finished models.

It's a shame they are here only once this year. Tomorrow, Fringe Sunday, is set to be another 'scorcher' and would have been an ideal occasion to complement the music, dance and magic in the Gardens, that is, if you can tear yourself away from Wimbledon.

If you are interested in the work of stone & water then you should go to their blog

Martin Wood