Twenty-seven reviews later- thank you for bearing with me. In good news (for you), Seren got ill, there should have been a few more- but one day we only got to one show. We had lots of rescheduling and apologies to make. But, illness aside, we had the most fantastic Edinburgh Fringe Festival experience. So much gained, so many lessons, of theatre and of life.
First and foremost, (Oscar’s speech), this wouldn’t have been possible without the Network of Independent Critics. Complete respect to Laura and Kate. Not only for managing the scheme which allows so many of us to spend time in Edinburgh, but also for the work they put in themselves. Through reading their reviews, and those of the other critics staying in Edinburgh, I feel like I only experienced the tip of the iceberg. Oh and did I mention Laura and Kate spend the duration in Edinburgh, so my 27 reviews pale into insignificance.
I’ve learned that Edinburgh is a blast, and it can be everything you want it to be and more. You can be the ultimate planner or the ultimate cruiser and Edinburgh will raise itself to meet your path. As a reviewer I learned that it’s not possible to do everything you want. I really didn’t want to leave four days between seeing a production and publishing a review. But the reality is, if you want to see four or five performances a day, unless sleep is optional, it’s not possible to keep the writing going. I’ve also compromised a little on quality, which is really difficult. I’m not sure if in all reviews I have done the production justice- but I’ve written honestly about every one, so ying and yang.
One of the things which has most challenged me about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the reviews and our reason for being a part of the critics network. Seren and I travelled to Edinburgh to find theatre which she loves. I am more challenged by her age (nine) in finding theatre which keeps her interested and sparks conversation beyond our time in the theatre.
In reviewing children’s theatre I became obsessed by the age recommendations. I found it difficult to review productions, because whilst they were fantastic theatrically they weren’t offering what they set out – specifically the interest to the age group. I’ve wondered if this is fair, if the theatre is good is that enough? But here’s the thing, if I hadn’t been told something was theatre for me (an adult) and it was pitched for 10 year-olds I might not enjoy it. If I bought a ticket for the ballet and it transpired that it was a comedy show, I wouldn’t be able to review a ballet.
I got to this point with the Edinburgh Fringe, if – as a parent- I buy tickets for my family I want my money to be well spent. It’s ok if I make a judgement- if something’s advertised as for 5 -8 year-olds, I might take my three in a 2 out of 3 rule. If it’s for 8 – 10 year-olds, I might take the risk that my 7 year-olds will be fine. It will be my decision for my family to make the investment, based on the information available. So, I do think it’s fair to be let down if my 9 year-old feels she is tolerating something ‘babyish’.
So, hopefully my reviews have offered a balanced response to the productions we have seen. Of the 27, the majority of were advertised as relevant to my nine year-old (the others were for an older audience but I made the call). Eighteen were children’s theatre, the remainder were a mix of cabaret, comedy, theatre, dance and musicals. We saw performances which were Edinburgh Fringe debuts and shows which were Fringe favourites.
And whilst it has been difficult, Seren and I have concluded our top 5’s. There is only one we have in common. It turns out my tastes are different to a 9 year-olds. There are at least three which aren’t on either of our lists which I am disappointed by. But there’s probably no point having a top five if you need to make difficult decisions. So, here goes.
Seren’s top 5
- Wu Song: The Tiger Song
- The Extraordinary Time-Travelling Adventures of Baron Munchausen
- Villain: DeBlanks
- Comedy Club 4 Kids
- A Good Enough Girl?
Debbie’s top 5
With our reviews in hand, what else did we learn? Well, I learned so much of my daughter. I haven’t had this much time with her since… well, the boys came along seven years ago. Of course I knew about her independence, her bossy and her sassy, her being a daddy’s girl. I overlooked how much she loves humour, how much she loves improvisation. And more uncomfortably, how much she loves audience participation – on her terms.
I also learned that whilst she’s fond of food at home, it seems this is a homebird thing. When she’s with me she loves sushi and Krispy Kremes. Bananas and strawberries thrown in to create the semblance of a balanced diet.
I’ve learned compromise goes a long way. Suggesting we’re going to see things just for my enjoyment is fine, as long as there’s a better balance of things we’re seeing for her. Having Seren ill at the festival was difficult- and I hope no-one was too offended by her resting her head on me whilst she was at her worst. But in everything Seren’s kindness does shine through. She knew how much I wanted to see Le Gateau Chocolat and got involved. We’ve been playing my Icons CD since we’ve been home, and yes, there’s the complete rubbing her brothers up because we’ve shared the experience of a live performance.
I also learned that my planning wasn’t as good I thought it was. On our final day we spent most of it at the Pleasant Courtyard. I wished I had planned a little better around venues. In saying that my Fitbit tells me my time at the Fringe was a record-breaking week. So it’s swings and roundabouts.
I learned that nothing should be taken foregranted. The most unexpected joy was found where I had fewest expectations. This specifically refers to The Dark Room (for Kids!), A Gallant Life, A Good Enough Girl?and Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom. (I may have just found a way of extending my top 5!).
I have loved and learned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so much more than is written here. There is, no doubt, more to come. But for now, its about resting and reflection.
Thank you for bearing with me.