Edinburgh Festival Fringe children's shows reviews: Lightning Ridge | Green Fingers | La Petite Gerda
Lightning Ridge ***
Summerhall (Venue 26) until 20 August
Two people are missing, and their names are splashed across a wanted poster: Pobby, 6’4” with a limp, and Dingan, who loves Cherry Ripe chocolate bars. There is no picture – they’re imaginary people, you understand.
But their being lost? That’s very real. In the latest offering from children’s theatre company Catherine Wheels, one small boy sets off on a dust-stricken quest across Australian mining country in search of his younger sister’s imaginary friends, and the kind of faith that might keep his desolate community together.
Lightning Ridge, named after the opal mining town in which it is set, is an ode to the world-making potential of imagination – its power is woven in at every turn. With only one performer on stage and an array of simple yet well-deployed props, the play stresses its own investment in make-believe: a handful of scattered rocks become townspeople, a chalk circle an echoing mine shaft, a pile of sand the town that slowly sweeps across the stage.
And while the narrative itself never gathers enough momentum to fully dazzle (with a final twist that feels somewhat unearned), there’s something incredibly charming about Lightning Ridge’s self-reflexive commitment to such childlike play.
Green Fingers ***
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 15 August
Smart, silly and perhaps only slightly overlong for the particularly young audience who will appreciate it most, this two-handed fairytale in the style of Roald Dahl by performers Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter (or Fladam, as they’ve inventively know as a collective) fits more than one sense of growth into its cute, quirky narrative.
A puppet character operated by both performers, who also narrate and take on multiple other characters, Green Fingers is a little boy who literally has green fingers. These make him an outcast when he’s sent to the Hogwarts-like Woodburn School (named in honour of How Clean is Your House’s Kim Woodburn), where the headteacher is extraordinarily strict about cleanliness. Here, they sing songs about Cillit Bang and do gym classes in PPE kit.
Yet Green Fingers also has unusual skills as a gardener, which he practises in the school garden, despite headteacher’s known aversion to mucky hands. In a world where the motto is “sometimes in the quest to tell a good story, the truth can get lost,” there’s a gentle theme of personal growth towards understanding and compromise amid all the growing flora. With DIY costumes and set, Poskitt and Sowter tell the story with imagination, catchy songs and big personality.
La Petite Gerda ***
Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17) until 15 August
“Don’t go with the queen of the snow,” goes the song at the start of this adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale. Thankfully, headstrong Kai doesn’t listen, gets captured and, with the swish of the Snow Queen’s cloak, his friend Gerda is embarking upon the classic adventure to get him back, the strange quiet energy of a land of ice and snow exhaled onto the stage by Footsbarn Theatre.
Grandmother Babushka helps tone down the creepier sides of the story, as a fun former tightrope walker turned caravan owner who has the air of a pantomime dame, along with a variety of other magical characters – including a self-absorbed princess, cackling crow and ethereal stag.
Clutching Kai’s little guitar, Greta, as a kind of every-child meets sensible sister, at times risks being outshone by the ingenious costumes of the myriad of mysterious characters she encounters, her earnest dialogue more obvious than their multi-dimensional outfits.
But with a hot soup and a warm fur ever on hand, it’s a pleasantly cosy version of the classic that draws an audience of all ages into its haunting world. “The best show I’ve seen today” says a girl on the row behind, and I’d have to agree -- although it is only lunchtime.