Family opera review: Watching, Edinburgh

Standing on a balcony, high above the crowd inside a glasshouse, two soloists are singing. Down below, a two-year-old boy sits transfixed, unable to take his eyes off them. Their pure voices, backed by a harpist and choir on the ground, are like a siren song compelling us to listen, but for all the right reasons.

Watching: Occasionally seems too scary for its young audiences
Watching: Occasionally seems too scary for its young audiences

Watching - Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

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It is moments like this, that prove the importance and impact of work of this nature. Projects rooted in the community, supported by talented artists who introduce young audiences to hitherto unknown pleasures.

A collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s Music in the Community course, the Royal Botanic Garden and pupils from Leith Walk Primary School, Watching gets so many things right, it’s a shame it falls short of the mark.

The location is sublime. Walking around the Garden after dark, happening upon one visual and aural feast after another is truly magical. Whether it’s a group of primary sevens dressed as nocturnal animals, students singing and playing over ten different instruments, or the beautifully lit glasshouses, the design elements have all been cleverly thought through.

So too the music, which is both accessible and engaging. Which is why the unnecessarily verbose script and an ill-judged scene, in which a scaly-skinned monster appears from under a bed (prompting tears in some young viewers, and no doubt nightmares in others) is such a disappointment.

The need for a dramaturgist is palpable, to turn this exploration of sleep into a narrative journey worthy of the gorgeous sound and vision.

Seen between 18.03.15 and 21.03.15