**** (4 stars).
I arrive at the Studio and watch the ever-increasing crowd of tinies, many in minute Christmas sweaters, eagerly await the invitation to enter the house for the first performance this year of Tortoise In A Nutshell’s Flutter. We are asked to take our shoes off, and most people comply, though for those whose feet, like mine, get cold very easily it’s possible to sit at the back of the audience. Most people, young and older alike, sit on the cushions and low benches nearest the stage but blessedly there are chairs for the less-bendy among us.
As we enter the performing space, we can hear snoring… can it be from the inhabitants of the tiny boxes we pass on our way in? To the sound of Brahms’ lullaby we enter a snow-covered landscape, and a hush falls on everyone till a trumpet-playing pigeon wakes us up and the show begins. Christie and Hannah enter and start sliding and swooping on the ice, spinning and turning, leaping and jumping, enjoying the freedom this cold white world offers them. Hannah, in an orange jacket, is bold and lively, blue-clad Christie is more fearful and hugs her toy penguin for comfort: she gradually becomes more confident, and has a great time. Filip the penguin develops a life of his own, trying to steal sandwiches, hiding in a number of extraordinary places, and ultimately saving the day.
There is a lot going on between the two girls as they play – teasing, hurting each other, falling out and making up – and I wonder how much of this the tinies are picking up: but apart from one wee girl who howls and has to be taken out, they all sit silently entranced with the odd comment to a parent or gran and some delighted giggles at the antics of the penguin and the two girls’ puzzlement as they search for him. We didn’t quite get to “he’s behind you!!” but the potential was definitely there! There was drama and potential disaster as the wind blew harder and the snow started to whirl, but in the end all was well and all the sleeping creatures we’d seen on our way in joined in a general disco of rejoicing.
It was a delightful show, with a lot packed into a very short time on a very cleverly-designed set, much inventive use of physical theatre and puppetry and an attractive aural and musical soundscape. My only criticism is that Flutter is billed as ‘immersive’ and ‘interactive’ but the only immersion/ interaction that takes place is at the end of the show, when the tinies are invited to dance [in their seats] and then to come on to the acting area or to talk to Christie and Filip. That aside, it’s an excellent show for little ones [and their adults] – but you may have to wait for next year to see it, as the run is already sold out!
Flutter, The Studio, Edinburgh, Runs until 24th December, SOLD OUT