The Edinburgh Academy
10.00, 11.30 (run ends 20th Aug, not 14th)
Oh my goodness: this performance was enchanting on so many levels – what a brilliant way to start my 2017 Fringeing!
I’d gone out of interest as much as anything – how on earth were Scottish Opera going to make a show for 6-18-month-olds? – and was completely bowled over by it, as were the small people for whom the show was created.
The storyline is simple: a bird lays an egg, a chick hatches out, mother and son are delighted with each other, then the son flies off to make his way in the world. A superb score, written by Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson, is musically very satisfying for adult ears and aurally fascinating for the younger listener. Charlotte Hoather’s Ucellina smiled enchantingly as she sang stratospherically, welcoming Timothy Connor’s Pulcino out of the egg, and duetting adorably with him before he flew off into the blue. Laura Sergeant and Stuart Semple on cello, percussion, and tiny pianos, created a wonderful mixture of melody, rhythm and texture which kept a room full of tinies entranced for 45 minutes.
Design team Giuseppe Belli and Emma Belli have created gorgeous bird costumes and a rich yet simple and child-friendly setting. The floor is covered in cushions the colours of a cloud-dotted sky: these provide cover for the egg as it grows and hatches, entertain and protect those toddlers bold enough to join in the action, and enable one small person to present her mother with a succession of gifts. They even act as a child-friendly barrier to the determined wee thing who would not stop trying to reach the gloriously shiny gold percussion instrument tantalisingly near him…
Strategically-placed staff members around the performance area intervened, smilingly, when necessary: and the singers themselves were superbly unfazed by, and very welcoming towards, those tots bold enough to crawl on to the cushion-strewn floor and interact with these enticingly musical grown ups…
I spoke to various mums afterwards, and they were full of praise for the production: “my child was mesmerised for the first ten minutes, and then wanted to join in”; “my son can’t sit still for two minutes – and he was enthralled most of the way through”; “the performers were brilliant, dealing with the children while continuing to sing and keep their focus”. One small person was howling on the way out because it was over…
The performances are almost completely sold out (but there will be more performances in October in Glasgow): beg, borrow, or steal a small child and prepare to be entranced!