The Puppet Animation Festival celebrates its 30th year with performances and workshops across Scotland, available to catch here in Edinburgh until 19th April. Little Princess Goldtree, performed by Yugen Puppet Company, combined puppetry and shadow theatre to entertain wee ones aged 4+.
The set resembled a room about to be redecorated, with sheets draped over interesting shapes, and a paint roller leaning against a ladder. The ingenuity of the performers sparked the collective imagination, and together we transformed the bits and bobs of furniture and accessories into the stuff of fairytales.
This fairytale was a Scottish reworking of Snow White in which there were no poisoned apples (suspiciously half-red or otherwise) and no dwarves – dubiously politically correct or otherwise. Injecting humour where none previously existed, this version replaced the all-seeing mirror with an omniscient trout who could not and would not lie - even when the heroine’s life depended on it.
Trout’s truth trouble appeared to be catching, as the youngsters happily wandered off-script during their big interactive moment, to earnestly point the wicked queen in the right direction of Goldtree’s hiding place. Thankfully the show still managed to deliver the requisite happy ending.
The production was imaginatively conceived, and presented the children with enough surprises – both of storytelling methods and storyline twists - to hold their attention. Tellingly, the magical wafting of sheets to classical music caused the younger ones to drift and fidget; yet when one performer got carried away whooshing about with the sheet until she became tangled up in it, they laughed riotously. It was mainly the humorous notes that connected with the children, but a general higher level of energy and a faster pace would have generated greater engagement with even the quietest of moments.
Nevertheless, it was an intriguing piece of theatre, creatively designed and skilfully produced, yet didn’t quite dispel the familiar maxim, ‘never work with children and fish’.
North Edinburgh Arts Centre 12th April 11am
Banchory, Woodend Barn, Aberdeenshire 14th April 2pm