***** (5 stars)
“They’ve done it again!”
I began my Fringe reviewing in 2017 with the first run of Scottish Opera’s show for under-one-year-olds, not sure what to expect but curious to see what would happen. I and the entire audience of babies and parents were enchanted: I can’t think of a better way to have started my Fringe. When I discovered that Bambin0 was coming to the Festival Theatre, I simply had to be there: and I was not disappointed.
The plot is very simple: a female bird lays an egg, which grows and then hatches into a baby – the bambino of the title. Mother and baby enjoy each others’ company, then the baby is encouraged to try its wings and fly up into the blue before coming back to earth to snuggle up to its mother.
Soprano Charlotte Hoather and baritone Sam Pantcheff were joined by two extremely versatile musicians. Andrew Drummond Huggan plays cello; he and Darren Gallacher both play tiny but powerful keyboard instruments and a variety of percussion instruments, and set a number of toy birds singing before sending them off into the audience. They sing, they clap their hands, and they join in the whole performance with gusto.
The singing is almost exclusively in Italian or Babblespeak, but this doesn’t disconcert the babies [and for anyone who does speak Italian, the words are simple and part of the story]. The soprano goes very high at times, and the baritone not only low but, using his falsetto range, can try to rival his mum. He has a lovely duet with the cello, trying to copy the instrument’s wide range and variety of tone, and his mum sings a beautiful lullaby [during which the babies’ noise level rises noticeably]. Lliam Paterson’s score is wonderful – fascinatingly varied and inventive.
Before the performance it’s made clear that the babies are free to crawl around the central, cushion-strewn acting area, but both they and we are to keep away from the instruments: they are also free to make whatever noise they care to – but we are exhorted not to join them! The wee ones ranged from very new to pretty adventurous, and there were a couple of Scottish Opera people near the raised area just in case any of them took off in the wrong direction…
What I find astounding every time I see this show is the ability of the two singers to act and sing their complex parts while engaging wholeheartedly with the babies crawling around them, sitting near them, and occasionally bawling their heads off when someone who’s been silent suddenly starts to sing. They smile at the wee ones, engage in simple peekaboo when moving the cushions around; and at one point mum brings her egg round us all so that the babies can touch it.
It’s pure joy from start to finish, and the best part of all is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they leave the theatre: both babies and parents have had a simply splendid time!
Scottish Opera, Bambin0, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Scottish Tour Continues until September 11th for more information go to: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/shows/bambino/