For Families Reviews


Pavilion Arts Centre 19th July

I have to admit that I went to this show knowing nothing about the company Box Tale Soup. I now want to see everything they have done. I love their style!

I took along my 8 and 6 year old to help get a younger person’s perspective on the piece. The story its self is about Alice wanting to get into the beautiful garden, with no real reason or meaning! Carroll’s story has always been an odd one, but one that children engage with because of the characters.

From the start a great understanding of the audience was displayed. We loved the way that when you entered the auditorium the puppets were on stage, but facing out. It gave the waiting children a focus and a discussion point as they were trying to work out who the different characters were. This was a really good idea as the audience was large and excitable!

The story was played by two actors and these puppets. The transitions between the characters was excellent, even the way one actor would start a puppet character off and the other actor finish them. It is beautifully acted and voiced with each character having a distinctive voice and mannerism. The two actors were able to seamlessly slip between characters and voices with the addition of a puppet or an item of clothing. The talking flowers were comedy gold and the Cheshire cat was pure genius.

The costumes and props all had elements of printed words on as though Lewis Carroll’s words ran through everything that was happening on stage.

The set was amazing. It unfolded, simply out of a trunk. It slotted together, pieces were removed, or tucked back in. The transformations were beautiful. A river appeared, a forest grew, a house unfolded this was real magic.

It is a magical and engaging piece for children and adults alike. This is children’s theatre as it should be. There is something in the show for everyone, but at its heart it is a tale told for children. What a huge shame this show has only one performance date!

Jayne Marling

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS by Tom Crawshaw - REC Youth Theatre

'Around the World in 80 Days' a classic amongst children's literacy, a funny heartwarming and uplifting tale with underlying themes of ethics and virtue. All I can say to the REC Youth Theatre is 'thank you' and 'bravo'. Due to the actors tremendous acting the audience were able to take-along with the characters in the play, a journey of hope, love and courageousness. For this Tom Crawshaw, the writer of the play deserves huge congratulations for writing such endearing and heartfelt characters, which made the play truly amazing.

What struck me about the play was how cohesive it was. The story flowed and glided from start to finish instrumenting how well the theatre group worked together on and off stage. The whole cast, both younger and older drew together to reproduce this terrific tale, due to this teamwork, the play was fabulous throughout! It was also lovely to see the actors enjoying themselves throughout the play, moreover showing how passionate they are to delivering the play to the best of their ability. Now to mention everyone individually would be impossible and since this review can only be a page long I can only focus on a few of the actors that have performed in front of me tonight however this does not mean everyone isn't as equally spectacular. Firstly we have the stern, precise protagonist 'Fogg' played by the fantastic James Chetwood, I must say he is one fine, confident actor. To play such a deadpan character must have been a challenging role for James to take on, however he delivered it with tremendous confidence- I predict to be hearing a lot more praise about him in the future! Now where would 'Fogg' be without his trusty servant 'Passpartout' played by Cameron Mackay; through testament to Mackay's acting, the audience fell in love with his character instantly. His humor and somewhat innocence provides laughter for all! If you are looking for a humorous watch, Mackay will provide a comedy throughout. I would also just like to give huge congratulations to Mackay's accent throughout-truly terrific. Alex Paul also delivers a stellar performance playing the antagonist 'Fix' his tremendous one-liners were hilarious as well as the manner in which Alex portrayed them. One last thing to say is-what an awesome hat! Now again although there were some standout performances the cohesive nature of the play was due to the body of actors behind it-therefore without them there would be no show.

I have to say a stand out moment for me was the fantastic use of props to make an 'elephant' this had to be artistic genius. It was memorable and had the whole crowd laughing. One thing in which this play does show is that not always the best plays have to have fancy backdrops and spectacular props, this play showcased the actors therefore producing much warmth and heart.

Speaking to a parent of one of the cast members outside before the start of the show, they stated; 'the first nights always their worst' in reference to the company’s performance. If that is so, the following night’s audiences are in for a treat due to tonight’s performance being out of the world-it is certainly going to be hard to beat.

Well done to all the team in the REC Youth Theatre the hard work paid off to deliver a fantastic and mesmerizing show I truly was transported around the world, just in a little less than eighty days!

Lois Rushworth


Imagine the BBC TV programme, “A Question of Sport” has been given a dose of laughing gas, been crossed with the other side’s “Whose Line is it Anyway” and the result is filmed to be played at twice the speed, that goes some way to explain what ComedySportz brings.

In this competitive improvisation challenge, the famous rivalry of Blue versus Red is played out by two Teams before an audience that has the power to make one team “as sick as a parrot” and render the other “over the moon!”

Compered by the bubbly arbiter, Bron it is family-friendly fun all the way as the two comedy collectives take it in turns to charm, woo and ultimately win-over the audience by bringing to life their ridiculous suggestions in a variety of challenging tasks. The points stack up and a winning team is eventually declared, but the only real winners are the happy audience.

The great thing about improv is that nobody is ever stuck for something funny to say; even when it doesn’t work out as planned, it is hilariously entertaining. For example, our audience learned just how funny it becomes when you add a banana and a trombone to a beach and Yorkshire Terrier!

Catch the next show before it troops up to Edinburgh and be prepared to take an active part, get your funny-muscles well stretched and limbered up to get the silliness going and your ideas flowing: it is fast, frantic and funny – all at your command.

Does it matter which team wins? Not at all. Something else about improv is that you won’t see the same show as me, perhaps it will be funnier (although I don’t know how that could be!).

David Carlisle


Anna Beecher is a storyteller. She greets her audience warmly in bare feet, wearing a waistcoat of quills. Then sits centre stage, on chair with her book on her lap and proceeds to tell the most wonderful story, with her warm and engaging voice. There are no actors, just Anna reading from her book like a Jackanory storyteller from days gone by. She asks have you ever wanted anything so badly you said ‘I’d do anything to have that.’ The boy on the front row nods energetically and the audience is hooked.

Hans my Hedgehog is a tale of being different and learning to love and accept that difference. You have to look beyond initial impressions to

see the beauty. Oh, and that thing you want so badly might not be quite as you imagined when you actually have it! You do have to remember that this is a Brothers Grimm fairytale and not a Disney version of it, so the tale isn’t all frothy and frilly, but the story has lines in it that the adults will nod sagely at, and other parts that will have the children on the edges of their seats in anticipation.

Children are very used to flash editing and adults pulling out all the stops to entertain them. I would say that you should try out your mini audience members out on this piece. Forty minutes of storytelling could be a big ask for some young audience members, but I think that if you don’t try your youngsters out with something like this, then maybe you are underestimating them.

Jayne Marling

THE THEO THE MOUSE SHOW - Dreamshed Theatre

Dreamshed Theatre has been quietly bringing us a great deal of quality entertainment on the Fringe and Theo the Mouse is no exception.

From the moment Theo arrives on stage, tail first, the stage is set for lots of family fun with Theo’s best friend Wendy providing glamour, sanity and a lovely singing voice while Theo the Mouse proves to be everybody’s favourite naughty boy. The show also boasts appearances from Wink Taylor, seasoned writer for ITV’s Sooty and Basil Brush shows but an engaging performer in his own right though, ahem, he seems a little shy about coming on stage at the same time as Theo.

The small children in the audience loved the show with the exception of one tiny tot who was fatally taken aback by Theo’s eventual grand entrance although not as it transpired afraid of the ghost that appeared later. As a grown up though, what I loved was the fact that there were jokes for us too, nothing smutty or inappropriate but just an adult sensibility as when for example Theo accused the mums and dads of “just patronising” him or “looking a bit vacant”. Funnily enough Wink had a similar sense of humour doling out a party bag prize to a child then advising him not to look inside it – “I can’t stand the look of disappointment.”

Although the show had echoes of Basil Brush in its format, it reminded me more of the best kind of panto with singing, dancing, magic and even some ‘Oh no there wasn’t! Oh yes there was!’ moments. There was just the right amount of interactivity, no longueurs, spot on comedy for adults and children alike and not a hint of condescension to younger members of the audience. We were all quite sorry to say goodnight to Theo and as he pointed out, 3.45pm was perhaps “a bit harsh” as a bedtime.

I loved this so much I bought the DVD for my young nieces. So don’t miss out on this excellent and professional production and do take the chance to see some of the other shows going on in the URC’s pleasant and central venue.

Stephanie Billen

TINY! WILDNESS - stone & water

Today I tore myself away from the armada of orange that was Fringe Sunday, and crossed the river from the bandstand in the Pavilion Gardens to find the stone & water crew with their latest Tiny! workshop.

As last year's 'For Families' award winners, the imaginative Tiny! workshops have been Fringe staples for the past five years, so I knew I was in for a treat. It was lovely to see them back again with yet more creative ideas to enthrall and inspire all ages.

Perched like pixies or goblins beneath a tree with boxes of material, paper and pens, stone & water invited children to unleash their inner artist and create an array of colourful paper finger puppets. The children didn't disappoint, coming up with a host of tiny characters including princesses, dragons, bats, pterodactyls, butterflies, robots and more, and that was just during the hour I spent there.

I visited the workshop with my two small cousins. One very patiently worked hard concentrating quietly on a carefully coloured bird while her older sister prolifically produced a whole cast of finger characters ready to be brought to life against the sets provided. A cottage, castle, tower and forest became the backdrop to complicated epic tales of battles, dragons, weddings and captured princesses performed by the children and their new creations.

The artists were on hand with practical and artistic help, whilst never patronising the young artists they were working with. The workshop proved totally absorbing, especially for the very young who seemed entranced at the fantasy world they were creating, and very proud of their finger puppets.

Gordon (aka Toad) said "we're not trying to do anything big or complicated", but the (tiny) event captured children and parents alike, proving that things don't need to be big to be important, and that simple is often best. The playful workshop was a perfect time out from summer madness and rushing around, providing a much needed quiet break in the shade, with an added touch of magic and mystery.

Annie Osborne

WORDWORMS! - Mark Gwynne Jones

Arts Centre Studio (further performances 23 & 24 July, 6.15pm).

This was a world première for Buxton – lucky us. Given that is was in the Fringe programme in the section ‘for families’ and posters around town declared it suitable for all from 7-107 it was a shame that so few children were in the audience. Mark seemed a bit unsettled by this discovery and it is to be hoped that the earlier starting time of the other two performances will change the age profile of the audience.

‘Wordworms!’ is Mark’s brand new book of poetry aimed at younger readers. In the publicity for the show he explains: the show centres on how the words we think and speak are alive, how they shape the way we feel, and of the magic they possess. A magic sometimes used to transform our world in humorous ways: If I were a poet… he writes, I’d turn celebrities / into thin air / then sell them on eBay, / in a jam jar!

Mark says ‘Young people respond well to live poetry. They enjoy its energy, playful irreverence and sense of danger. It comes down to the pictures and the pictures tell the story. I think we’re hardwired for narrative, everyone loves a good story!’

When asked about the title of his show, Mark says ‘Words are alive… They’re Wordworms! Living creatures… They’ve always had wings but now they fly faster than ever, can travel the world in an instance and will sometimes change the way you think and feel. They can be your best friend and your worst enemy. They’re magic and can pretty much change anything!’

He began his performance with a poem railing against the injunction ‘Don’t’. Those of us that ever hear ourselves – or others – insisting to children ‘Don’t’ will recognise how damaging such persistent negative language can be. Yes, ‘Don’t hit your brother with a cricket bat’ but there are few occasions when that need be said. Trying to change negative ways of saying things into a positive form is part of all teacher training – but it is a mindset all of us find hard to shake off at times.

Especially absorbing tonight was his telling of the Grimms’ story Fundevogel and how that lead to a poem of his own about transformation.

Mark as a writer sparkles – even if he is using familiar rhyming structures he manages to surprise – but as a performer he has few equals. He can switch from being, so it seems, your best friend to someone who is slightly disturbing in an instant. His readiness to interrupt his own poetry to add a thought or explanation that occurs to him is indicative of how his performances are not just polished readings – in that way he breaks down the barriers between the poet and the audience. It is this that younger listeners may find so attractive about his performances. So, do go to ‘Wordworms!’ but take your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Mark Gwynne Jones is too good for adults.

Keith Savage