TOO MANY PENGUINS? – Edinburgh

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

★★★★★
Studio at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – until 24 December 2016

Clever, intriguing and thoroughly engaging for its target audience of pre-school toddlers, Too Many Penguins? returns in a form that is even better than before.

Playing the Festival Theatre Studio space up until Christmas Eve, this is the story of Mr Polaro – a polar bear who likes the orderly things in life – and the hyperactive young Penguina, who sets up her holiday tent next door.

Joe Douglas is a joy to watch as Mr Polaro setting out his ordered life – from reading the Financial Times on his big easy chair, to sipping espresso while listening to the Crew Cuts’ version of Life Could Be A Dream on his record player. Or all of them together.

Nicola Jo Culley’s appearance from out of her yellow tent is a burst of energy and surprise. Although her feet have been visible sticking out of its door all this time, adding just the right sense of anticipation for those who have spotted them.

Speaking some kind of squeaky cod Italian to Mr Polaro’s gruff monosyllables, Penguina is quickly persuading him to take her along when he goes off to work, painting his lighthouse.

If it’s all a bit much for poor Mr Polaro, he survives the sparky, constantly questioning onslaught – until, that is, Penguina’s family and friends start turning up.

The penguins  come by hot air balloon, by car and by boat. Suddenly the stage is full of fluffy penguins and not all as good as they might be, as they are magically manipulated by Culley and Douglas.

Winter Wonderland. Photo Greg Macveen

The joy is that this is exactly the world and the relationship which pre-school children can relate to. And for those younger siblings who are too young to understand, the pace of the whole thing is just right, with delicately shaded music from Greg Sinclair.

From Mr Polaro’s first fishing trip to the big finale, when everyone in the audience is joined by a penguin so they can dance around too, this is a treat.

But for once, the play is not the only thing here. What really enhances the production – which has been around for several years now, being originated at the McRobert in Stirling and having played the Traverse a couple of years ago – is the winter wonderland room before you go into the play itself.

This is a socks-only zone. A river of silver foil runs across the floor – so real that one youngster refused to step in it and would only cross when a piece of paper was put down in the middle as a stepping stone.

Around the room are see-through igloos, little tents with cushions to lie down in. There are clear balls of the kinds that are used in ball pits to throw around, penguins and reindeer around the room, penguins to colour in and a great mural of penguins on one wall.

It is quite separate from the play itself, but is definitely part of the theatre zone. It adds to the whole experience and is excellent use of the Studio space, for which the Festival Theatre trust which runs the venue should be thoroughly applauded, and which is quite enough to earn the show itself an extra star!

Running time 45 minutes
(But arrive early and linger late to enjoy the Winter Wonderland)
The Studio at the Festival Theatre, Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Wednesday 14 – Saturday 24 December 2016
Daily (not Sun 18):10.30am & 1.30pm (Sat 24, 10.30am only).
Tickets: : www.edtheatres.com/toomanypenguins

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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