SHARK IN THE PARK – Edinburgh ★★★

In Children's theatre, Musicals, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh – until 6 January 2018
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson

A great deal of straightforward fun for young and old is to be had from Shark in the Park in the Festival Square Spiegeltent as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas.

This adaptation of Nick Sharratt’s popular series of picture books features Timothy Pope, who is wont to spy many things through his telescope that he believes to be a shark. Of course, they turn out to be much more everyday items such as a cat, a crow’s wing or his dad’s quiff. Or maybe Timothy is just in the right place at the wrong time….

All three of the books – Shark in the Park, Shark in the Dark, and Shark in the Park on a Windy Day – are presented in this production from ABA International Touring, Edinburgh-based Nonsense Room Productions (creators of the Hairy Maclary stage adaptations) and the Macrobert Arts Centre.

The clever repetitions which make all of the trilogy ideal for reading along with pre-school children are present, correct and ready for audience participation. The wonderful illustrations of Sharratt (probably still best known for his Jacqueline Wilson book covers) are also represented by the set. Like all of the staging, this decidedly low-tech and homespun, but all the better for it.

Even utilising all three books could never make a full-length show, however. Bruce Strachan and Julie Ellen’s adaptation fleshes out the characters and stories with only the faintest whiff of padding.

Purists may baulk at the way that Timothy seems so determined to see a shark before he even gets his telescope, but the developing of the relationship between the boy and his Elvis-obsessed dad is fitting. It is also more than a little touching, with the father appearing more dependent on his son than vice versa.

The pacing is good enough to keep both young and old interested, while Matthew Brown’s songs add another dimension. Jaded adults will also be relieved to here that there is absolutely nothing Christmas-related in the storyline.

Amy Robinson’s Timothy is energetic and playful enough to engage the target audience without annoying their adults – which is no mean feat – while Paul Beeson has a tremendous rapport as Dad, both with Robinson and the audience.
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Zoe Halliday throws herself into a series of other characters with great relish – Timothy’s rival, Rochelle and a passing seagull are particularly pleasing.

Turning books with such a clear visual identity and strong, simple storylines into a dramatic narrative is fraught with danger, but negotiated largely successfully. The cut-out features of the books – where we can see the supposed shark’s fin before its true nature becomes apparent – translate well here.

There is a definite lull in the middle, with the dream-sequence portrayal of Shark in the Dark working less well than the other two, but the rhythm soon picks up again.

There is a primary-coloured boldness and commitment to this production that will surely please the most ardent young fans of the source material, and easily hold the attention of any youngsters who have not yet read the books.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Festival Square Spiegeltent, Lothian Road, EH2 9SR
Friday 1 December 2017 – Saturday 6 January 2018
Daily (not Mondays) at 1.00 pm (except 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 19, 22, 24, 30, 31 Dec at 11.00 am; 13, 17 Dec at 4.00 pm)
No performances Fri 15, Sat 16, 23
Information and tickets: http://www.edinburghschristmas.com/whats-on/shark-in-the-park

Nonsense Room Productions website: http://nonsenseroom.co.uk/wp/.

The Shark in the Park books are available from Amazon. Click the titles for details.

Kate Barnett as Timothy Pope in a previous tour. Photo Paul Watt

ENDS

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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