As I sat in wonder on Saturday evening in total astonishment, that feeling was only compounded when Katie whispered in my ear – “It’s REAL magic”! Without a doubt, Punchdrunk has brought a theatre experience to The Edinburgh Theatre festival that’s not quite like anything I’ve experienced before.
In a lot of ways, I really don’t want to write this review because I don’t want to spoil anything. I don’t want to reveal the secrets or do anything to diminish the experience for anyone else. I’m not quite sure what I expected beforehand but it certainly wasn’t this.
Gathering in the lobby of ‘The Warehouse’ at Elizafield I was initially a little apprehensive that the audience was so small. It seemed like such a large venue for only five children and their assorted adults. But as our Usher gathered us round, I soon understood that this wasn’t normal theatre.
We were led along a corridor and through some doors, and soon found ourselves standing outside what looked like your average council flat. The children were asked if one of them would ring the doorbell and sure enough, Number 17 was soon answered by Nanny Lacey who welcomed us into her home.
Taking a seat on a sofa as the children gathered around her for a story, I was aware that all awareness of time had gone. Birdsong could be heard, it was daylight out the window and it really was akin to being in someone’s home. Nanny Lacey immediately engaged with the children, and began to share her stories using the ‘miniatures’ that were dotted around the room. Even the coffee table was a race track of little runners, and as she told her stories the flat seemed to respond to her as lights and sounds changed and that feeling of magic built.
But all wasn’t quite as it seemed in many ways. It was clear that Nanny Lacey had been struggling to live alone. The phone rang a number of times with ‘assisted living’ and her daughter Bella gently tried to suggest moving out of her flat. Through adult eyes, this was hard to watch. The struggle to hold on to memories, the wish to continue making new ones, the relentless march of time. This wasn’t children’s theatre that held back but that was prepared to present these themes in a delicate, beautiful way but that was honest.
The next part of the story has to be experienced. It was fully immersive theatre, without that cringe factor, that even the most sceptical of adult couldn’t be bewitched by. Together we travelled to a new world, for one last adventure, and one last story. I felt like it was something I would want all children to experience, and a very valuable experience that I could share with my child.
In many ways, this was theatre that required you to imagine, think, and feel. As we blinked back into reality at the end of the performance, ‘Punchdrunk’ felt like a very apt name for the theatre company. I felt dazed by it all and unsure how that magic really had been created. Without a doubt, we had explored something that had evoked a little sadness but equally excitement, awe, and wonder. There was a LOT to talk about afterwards with Katie and I’m sure those conversations will continue. What more would you want from a Saturday evening?
P.S. To be clear we were gifted tickets for this performance but all words and opinions are my own. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and hope that you all will equally support Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.
The age rating of 5+ is an appropriate one. I wouldn’t take my almost 4 year old. Located at The Warehouse in Leith: Elizafield, Unit 7, Edinburgh , EH6 5PY Due to the interactive nature of the show, adults on their own will not be admitted. 14 May-2 June 2019. Tickets can (and should) be purchased here: https://www.imaginate.org.uk/festival/whats-on/small-wonders/