Theatre review: The Christmas Quangle Wangle

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AS ONE of Scotland’s leading companies for tiny tots, Licketyspit are in the middle of a hugely ambitious participation project called Licketyleap, which has already involved more than 350 children in north Edinburgh in telling their own stories and making their own show.

Venue: North Edinburgh Arts

Rating: * * *

Review: Joyce McMillan

Now, though, the company are pausing briefly to present a few festive performances of The Christmas Quangle Wangle; and it’s a charming, laid-back hour of theatre, which often has its tiny audience squealing in delight.

The show is based on the Edward Lear nonsense poem about the Quangle Wangle Quee, a solitary creature with a giant hat on which all the weird creatures of the Earth come to nest. What draws the children into the tale, though, is the presence of its two narrators, Stella and Stan, a pair of slightly strange, shy kids – beautifully played by Ashley Smith and Scott Fletcher – who bond into fast friends as they become drawn into Lear’s surreal, imagination-exploding world.

Virginia Radcliffe’s script and Jonny Austin’s production might work slightly better if there was more clarity and drive around the story of Stan and Stella, and less long-drawn- out detail in the Lear episodes. There are delightful songs by Radcliffe and Tim Brinkhurst, most of them a couple of verses too long; and the chances for audience participation need to be more clearly signalled.

It remains a gently seductive show, though; and the design features big pop-up storybooks so gorgeous that one little tot kept trying to climb inside the picture, as if he wanted to stay in the magical world of the story.