Children’s show review: How to Be a Kid

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: There is no set to conjure up a sense of place, no props for the actors to wave around, and no costumes to indicate the change from one character to another.

Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26)

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All Paines Plough theatre company brings to the stage is themselves – three actors who build an entire world before our eyes, purely through their talent and our imagination.

Me meet Molly, a 12-year-old girl who has just spent five weeks in care while her mother recovered in hospital; her little brother Joe, who is obsessed with dinosaurs and has enough physical energy to power every venue at the Fringe; and mum, who also doubles as Molly’s recently departed nan, her social worker and a variety of friends.

There are serious life lessons to be learned in Sarah McDonald-Hughes’ new play, about the different ways people process grief, the resilience we’re capable of in times of adversity, and – most importantly – the need for families to talk openly about how they feel. All of which is delivered with a lightness of touch that ensures we never feel anything less than entertained.

Witty lines punctuate the sadness, highly physical storytelling holds our attention, and strong acting ensures there’s no prospect of confusion. Cleverly, McDonald-Hughes turns the more serious moments (Molly trying to get her little brother ready for bed and school because mum is too grief-stricken to get out of bed, or arriving at the care home for the first time) into a fast-paced comedic romp or drops in a blast of Taylor Swift to keep the young audience on-side.

A few less references to that nemesis of healthy eating, McDonald’s wouldn’t go amiss, but otherwise, this lively tale is a gentle but effective journey into difficult lives that are turned around through communication, hope and love.