Monday, August 22, 2011

"Hairy Maclary" - Edinburgh Fringe 2011

We tend not to review children's shows for the simple reason of not having ready access to small people. However a day out with some friends, who happen to have an almost 3 year old* and a 5 year old, gave us the perfect excuse to visit Nonsenseroom Productions's Hairy Maclary. As unashamed fans of their productions for an older audience we were keen to see what they produced for the wee ones.

I think the show can be best summed up with some quotes from the target audience. "Excellent" said the 5 year old (although worryingly he did want to know after the show if they were real dogs - they're not), and our almost 3 year old* visitor wanted to "take the doggies home". Her mum is considering a repeat visit if it tours near her.

At an hour long we had wondered how well it would hold the attention of both big and small but there are no worries on that front. Nonsenseroom have put together a show that moves at a nice pace, intertwining 4 or so of the tales with songs and audience participation so there's always something new for the little ones to look at or be involved with. For our two guests there was rapt attention - even sitting near the back of the large auditorium. For the grown ups there's no attempt to work at two different levels, it's very much a children's show; but helping the little ones join in with the actions and songs certainly brings out your inner child. Apparently I can pant well...

Carrie Mancini and Mat Urey, as the main human characters, do a great job keeping control of an audience that certainly isn't into sitting quietly. Audience interaction is built in to give them plenty of chances to release that noise in a (semi)controlled manner. The 'canine' cast bound around the stage with such energy that makes you tired just watching them and the songs and music are catchy enough to earworm you for the rest of the day. It helps that most of the children and their adults are familiar with the books and the characters from countless bedtime retellings. I think the man behind me had them all memorised.

My one criticism would be the size/type of venue. Although it's a nice 'proper' theatre with good raking we had the children on our knees for whole show, as if they'd been in their own seats visibility would definitely have been a problem. I may be being too harsh here as our children had no problem joining in, but I did feel they would have benefited from being a little closer to the action.

And I can't stop singing "Hairy Maclary...from Donaldson's Dairy".

*Yes we know that makes her two, but she'd give us into trouble for not pointing out that she's very nearly three, apparently you want to be older when you're that age. And she's scary when she's grumpy.

Hairy Maclary has completed its run at the Fringe but now begins an extensive tour including London and locations around the UK.
Image used with permission