Dec 16 2015 | By More

★★★★★    Perfect rainbow

Traverse Theatre: Sat 12 – Thurs 24 Dec 2015
Review by Thom Dibdin

There is a magical sense of discovery to White, the show for two to four year-olds which returns to the Traverse for the run up to Christmas.

It’s a simple story, about Cotton and Wrinkle who live in a pristine white world and whose job is to seek out (and dispose of) coloured items and look after eggs which fall from the sky.

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

Maybe it is a celebration of diversity and inclusiveness as their all-white world becomes disrupted when a red egg falls into their laps. Perhaps it is no more than a tale of accepting change as the egg colours their world.

What there is no question about, is that it remains a brilliantly conceived, designed and executed piece of theatre. One which works both for its target age range and for those who are likely to have charge of them.

Over 1,020 performances into its life and it feels as fresh as ever. It has been around the world, in both English and translation, and now it returns to the Traverse with the two performers who created it back in 2010.

Andy Manley’s Cotton still has a sense of quizzical interest as he sits knitting tiny egg cosies while the audience are taking their seats.


There will be surprises, of that you can be sure. But as the show begins, there is every opportunity for those experiencing their first piece of theatre to acclimatise to the situation before the lights go down.

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

That pair of legs sticking out from under the white wigwam structure will certainly play a part in those surprises, as Cotton and Wrinkle begin their day with rituals a child will easily understand.

They belong to Ian Cameron’s Wrinkle, who will poke his head out of a hole in the side of the tent, for Cotton to gently wet it and wash it before brushing his teeth and combing his hair.

It’s not just the actions, either, but the understanding of the parent child relationship which is integral to the performances. Cotton and Wrinkle are neither adults nor children, but they incorporate elements from both side of the relationship.

It is a very tricky balance between the competing demands to create something which is familiar and a safe environment but one which is still another world and far enough removed from reality to be magical.

meticulous care

It is a balance which is achieved with meticulous care in the arrival of the eggs and their nurturing. And one which is maintained as the disruptive red egg arrives and elements of the set mysteriously begin to take on different colours.

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

Ian Cameron and Andy Manley in White. Photo: Douglas McBride

Much of that mystery is created by Shona Reppe’s brilliant design. Around the pair is a forest of what look like bird’s nesting boxes which will become homes to the eggs. Except each has been pimped up. There’s one with big hair, another has a fluffy cover. A balloon is involved with one and feathers with another.

As the pair go round cleaning them and naming their colours – all white – each bird box is revealed to have its own unique and surprising character.

Reppe’s design owes as much to magic performance as anything else, which means the revelations can be as surprising and satisfying for adults as they are for children – although working out what the costumes are made from provides its own knowing grins for grownups!

Andy Manley, whose creation the show is, has performed the role of Cotton over 400 times. But he is a lightweight compared to Ian Cameron, who has played Wrinkle in an astonishing 650 performances.

What is even more astonishing, however, is that the whole piece is as fresh as it ever was. It remains clever after repeated viewings, even when you know how all the tricks are worked.

Its target audience, for whom repetition is such an important part of beginning to understand the world (a piece of information which Manley clearly understands), would likely be happy to see it every day.

So whether your child – or your nephew or niece, or godchild or other two-to-four year-old you would like to take to the theatre – has seen the show or not, then this is the show to take them to this Christmas.

Running time 45 mins (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Saturday 12 – Thursday 24 December 2015
Tue-Sat: 10am and 12 noon. Sat 12, Wed 16, Wed 23 & Thu 24 Dec also 2pm.

Tickets and information from http://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/658/white.aspx

Catherine Wheels website: http://www.catherinewheels.co.uk/


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