Edinburgh Festival Fringe: John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway’s picture book has accompanied many a bedtime regime since its publication in 1972.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Yet, until now, no British theatre company has adapted it. Well they’ve been missing a trick, because this simple tale of a village infested with wasps has huge potential for a family show – all of which is realised here.
East Midlands-based New Perspectives Theatre has (necessarily) stretched the original tale to fit an hour-long show, giving some characters a back-story and others more rounded personalities – ably handled by the superb cast of three. Not only do they bring an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm to the roles, but a sharp comic wit. Christopher Finn, in particular, by turns a nippy mayor, helicopter pilot and chilled out wasp, really hits the mark.
Much of the dialogue is delivered in verse, often to humorous effect, as we learn about the struggles of the formerly quiet village of Itching Down. The arrival of 4 million wasps shakes the residents from their sleepy lives and sends them into uproar – with a nice light-touch metaphor for the grown-ups, as the villagers look around for somebody, anybody, to blame.
While the mayor rambles on about meetings and committees to solve the problem (again, throwing the adults a comedy bone – but the kids are well-served, too), our heroes Bap the Baker and Farmer Seed get down to the real business of solving the problem with, as the title suggests, a giant jam sandwich in which to trap the swarm.
This leads to some imaginative and fun set design, including an enormous billowing ball of dough and a vast loaf of bread. The baking process is aided by some nicely timed audience participation, and James Atherton’s strong soundtrack of songs is sung with full voice throughout.
Until 28 August. Today 10:20am.