TIME WAS when Imaginate – then known as the Children’s International Theatre Festival – was all about watching in wonder, as children’s theatre artists from across Europe and beyond showed us the magic of world-class children’s theatre.
North Edinburgh Arts
Traverse Theatre, Edinbrgh
Churchill Theatre, Edinbrgh
No more, though; for this year, successful Scottish-made shows like Fleeto, The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish, and The Curious Scrapbook Of Josephine Bean have been fairly dominating the Imaginate scene. And the same is true of Chalk About, the latest show from Scottish dancer-choreographer Christine Devaney and her company, Curious Seed.
Deceptively simple in presentation, and inspired by recorded interviews with children in the eight-plus age-group for which it’s designed, Chalk About involves a bare stage marked with some basic chalk outlines, a few simple props and two dancer-performers, Devaney herself and Leandro Kees.
Yet in just 50 minutes, it leads its audience deep into the stuff of human identity, using movement and dialogue to discuss family and origins, nationality and gender, happiness, sadness and the way we express ourselves through the things we like, from pizza to disco music.
The movement is often witty, and sometimes beautiful; and Devaney and Kees give a brave, honest and delightful pair of performances, full of a rich sense of the joy of human difference, and of the pulsing, male-female energy of life itself.
There’s a similar idea behind Compagnie ChaliWate of Belgium’s gorgeous-looking show, Ilo, a brief 45-minute piece of dance and movement which appeared at the Traverse over the weekend. Created by performer/directors Sandrine Heyraud and Sicaire Durieux, the show involves a desert encounter between a man lost in the burning sand and a creature who at first seems like a walking plant in a giant earthenware pot, but soon morphs into a beautiful woman.
Most of the show consists of old-fashioned physical comedy and mime, as the couple fight over a bottle of water, make up, imagine a trip to the ocean. In its more lyrical moments, though, the choreography is beautiful and the visual imagery of the show is truly memorable, with its rich design of deep green costumes against a landscape of sand and terracotta, and a big, burning orange sun.
Meanwhile, up at Churchhill Theatre, Maas Theater En Dans of the Netherland have been entertaining the under-fives with a jolly 30-minute satire called Wanted: Rabbit, about a pompous chief of police – and his irritatingly glamorous detective, a siren in pigtails – trying and failing to prevent the invasion of their town by a plague of cheeky rabbits. The black-and-white model of the town that forms the set is a joy, as the creaky miniature police car lumbers around trying to catch the rabbits, who pop out of little holes all over the place.
Sadly, though, the script is not up to the standard of the set, and the interaction between the three characters becomes a shade leaden. Just as well the show ends with a bowl of carrots passed round the audience, and a sound of happy munching, from at least some of the assembled tiny tots.