How to Be a Kid ****

Children’s Shows

Roundabout@Summerhall

Venue 26

10.45 (run ends 20th Aug, not 15th)

 

Paines Plough have done it again – an engrossing, energetic and entertaining show that tackles another tough subject without getting either too sentimental or too clichéd.

Molly is twelve, her wee brother Joe only 6 and a real pest, dinosaur-obsessed and completely unsquashable.  Molly is returning home after six weeks in Riverside, full of thoughts of her New Best Friend Taylor, who helped her to adjust to life there: Jo is back from his dad’s.  Slowly we learn that Molly and Joe live with their mum and their Nan – but Nan got sick and died, and mum couldn’t cope – so Molly was placed in short-term residential care, while Joe went to their dad’s, where the new baby Liam is the centre of attention.  Initially Mum does a good imitation of a perfect mother [trying her best to replace Nan] but she still finds things so difficult that Molly gradually takes on responsibility for everything, while strenuously denying that anything is wrong either at home or at school.  Things continue to spiral out of control, and Molly decides to run away, back to Riverside, to Taylor, who will make everything okay again… or will she?

The story is brilliantly told – the Roundabout theatre, with the actors in the centre, make it easy for the audience to be included in the action which sometimes pauses for brilliant one-liner asides and comments.  Katie Elin-Salt plays the heartbreakingly grown-up and capable Molly, Hasan Dixon is the irrepressible, unstoppable, non-stop-action Joe, and Sally Messham plays everybody else, with a wide range of accents and the occasional sprint round the ring offstage to make her next character’s next entrance.

This is a high-octane show, superbly presented, and with very thoughtful handling of the complex emotions involved.  Molly’s increasing burden is graphically displayed in an ever-accelerating, wordless pantomime round of ‘Get up get dressed get fed do teeth catch the bus go to school comeback cook the tea fall into bed get up and do it all over again…’ and Jo’s lovably irritating six-year-old behavior is perfectly portrayed.  The adventure that ensues when Molly tries to run away is maybe slightly implausible, and the ending cleverly resolves the difficulties – if only life were that simple! – but this show is aimed at 7+ year olds, not cynical oldies…

The audience loved the show, the kids were gripped, and we were sent out with some really bouncy music which I, being ancient, failed to recognise…  this show is perhaps not quite as stunning as Every Brilliant Thing which is also playing at Summerhall this year, but it definitely deserves its four stars.

 

Mary Woodward