Dec 13 2018 | By More

★★★★★     Disarmingly charming

The Studio: Wed 12 – Mon 24 Dec 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin
Tickets and details: Book here.

There is real delight for pre-school kids to be had at the Studio of the Festival Theatre this Christmas, as the clever and playful Poggle is revived by Barrowland Ballet.

Poggle is skilful dance theatre, first staged at McRobert five years ago. It has maybe evolved further along its dance than its theatre element since then. But whatever you might call it now, it remains a brilliant introduction to live performance for those aged five and under.

Jade Adamson as Poggle. Pic: Barrowland Ballet

The simple story relates a day in the life of Vince who goes out to play in the wood and, following a bee to find honey for his toast, happens upon the curious, elfin Poggle.

The wood is represented in Fred Pommerehn’s set by big hollow cubes which you can climb on, but which turn to reveal different images on each side. So what appears to be a beautiful stand of Scots pines becomes fir-cones and pieces of grass, twigs and branches; a wall becomes steps up into the treetops.

There is music and adventure even before Vince arrives on stage. Musician Rory Haye is always around. He cuts a tall and sturdy figure, whose physique and solid, tree-like costume belies the delicate tunes he plays on his various instruments.

Sitting on that great wall of giant building blocks, Haye is an illusive character. One minute he is playing the clarinet, the next he’s disappeared from sight, before shuffling the blocks out of the way to chime a tune on a set of classroom bells and conjure Poggle out from under her fir-strewn bed.


As for Poggle herself, Jade Adamson is a tumbling fairy figure whose making of mischief and making of fun makes the whole show what it is. She plays amidst the treetops, dancing around to Haye’s music – and hiding from the intruding Vince by that well known toddler trick of holding something in front of her face.

Vince Virr and Jade Adamson. Pic Barrowland Ballet

And it is at this moment in the story, when the shy Poggle becomes invisible by the simple act of holding up a tiny spray of twigs, that you realise this is a production which speaks its audience’s language.

It isn’t just fun and comic, a brilliant mix of music, smells and images. It is a piece which anyone over about six months will be able to understand (and even babes in arms will love composer Daniel Padden’s music). Whatever their mother tongue and however advanced their own talking might be, it has a universal appeal.

Yet there is still more to it. Natasha Gilmore who directs and choreographed the piece has created a structure which fits snuggly with a toddler’s attention span.

There are quick bursts of inventive discovery. Vince Virr tumbles around, finding one shoe, then the next out of a cube – before more surprising revelations – and each repetition comes with a clever variation.

gently tumbling dance

Then there are longer moments of hypnotic play, where bubbles float across the space or there are sequences of gently tumbling dance from Vince and Poggle. Each of these captures and holds the attention until the next burst of energy.

And in the end, all Poggle wants is to sleep… Jade Adamson as Poggle. Pic: Barrowland Ballet

And it all builds up to a wonderful, fiddle-infused dancing finale after Vince, having found his own courage, makes it at last to the top of the trees where he is able to share the view with his delighted audience.

Then they are all invited on stage, to bounce around and discover that of those wondrous cubes has yet another, open side, where you can see the insects and grasses, rough bark and smooth bull rushes which lie hidden within.

This is proper magical storytelling, perfect for any pre-school child and even better for their accompanying adult to witness their wonder.

Running time 40 minutes (followed by time to explore the set)
Festival Theatre Studio, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Wednesday 12 – Monday 24 December 2018
Daily (not Mon 17, Sun 23): 10.30am and 1.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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