It’s gone fish mad in our household this weekend. The one year old has been walking around patting her head, saying ‘fish hat!’ and chuckling to herself; the four year old has been creating underwater scenes from stickers and the six year old has been hurling sealife-related questions at us. Yes, it’s fair to say that our trip to see Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales at the Great Yorkshire Fringe this weekend has captured our kids’ imagination.
While Tiddler, the storytelling fish from the book of the same name, is the show’s poster boy, there’s much more to it than just this tale of tall stories. In fact it’s a bit of a Julia Donaldson greatest hits parade: The Smartest Giant in Town, A Squash and a Squeeze and Monkey Puzzle all star, with The Gruffalo the only obvious omission (fine by me – we’ve read it hundreds of times and you can have too much of a good thing).
The bedtime favourites are brought to life by an incredibly energetic and talented cast of three who sing, play music and captivate the audience with puppets, funny voices and movement. It’s fast, funny and colourful – perfect for a young audience with a short attention span. Props and scenery are refreshingly simple: a village is created from household tins with books for roofs, a scarf becomes a snake, yellow hats and torches create an underwater scene. Imagination, not special effects, is the order of the day, and it seems right that a show based on books from a master storyteller should focus on the storytelling.
I’d love to tell you what we enjoyed most about the show, but there was so much to like that we couldn’t agree. I loved A Squash and a Squeeze – watching the little old lady deal with half a farmyard piling into her tiny house and then pile out again was hilarious – while the 6 year-old loved The Smartest Giant in Town (especially when his trousers fell down. Obviously) and the four year-old liked Monkey Puzzle best because the monkey finds her mum at the end and everyone’s happy. And as for the one year-old…well, she clearly quite fancies a fish hat of her very own.
As well as being a cracking show, we’d like to put a good word in for the Great Yorkshire Fringe as a theatre experience for kids. Going to the theatre can be quite overwhelming for little ones – ours have had wobbles over the years about it being dark or noisy or them having to be quiet the entire time. But taking them to the Great Yorkshire Fringe is as relaxing as any trip to a show with kids can be. There’s natural light in the tent, the chairs are movable so you can shift about a bit to get comfortable, and there are even booths to retreat into if you need to. Some parents were up and down a bit sorting their kids out and no-one minded – in fact with so much going on on stage, they probably didn’t even notice. Even better, there’s nobody trying to sell you overpriced sweets or spinning toys for £8 a pop either (I’m still scarred from one very expensive experience a while back). There are booster seats and there’s space for buggies too. It all feels very welcoming and we’re lucky to have it on our doorstep. Welcome back, the Great Yorkshire Fringe, and we can’t wait to have you back again next year.
Tiddler runs at the Great Yorkshire Fringe on 17th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 26th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st July 2016 (two shows, 11am and 12.45pm) – Family ticket (for four) is £40; babes in arms under 18 months who will sit on a lap are free