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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Attic

Published in Northings
Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy

I HAVE a vivid childhood memory of an episode of Bill and Ben in which the two flowerpot men left their usual patch of land and ventured through a door in the garden wall. 

Something about it stayed with me. It was partly the breaking of a tiresome routine, partly a sense of danger and transgression, but more importantly, I think, it was the sense of possibility. Who knows what imaginative vistas will open up once you step beyond the familiar?

Forty years later, I'm reminded of this in Hazel Darwin-Edwards' show for Starcatchers, the company specialising in early-years theatre. After meeting us outside the theatre, Darwin-Edwards takes us to a place that is not forbidden exactly, but has the air of the exotic, the mysterious and the undiscovered. It is the attic of her grandmother and it is piled high with trunks and hat boxes, each one promising a journey further into the unknown.

That's especially so in Karen Tennant's set which pushes the show gently into the surreal. Played with benevolent eccentricity by Carol Ann Crawford, this grandma has a penchant for knitting that extends all the way into the contents of the various boxes. Her granddaughter discovers pompoms in ever larger sizes, strange, misshapen garments, woollen vegetables and an assortment of knitted cakes.

Like many attics, this one is full of memories - the quaint teacups, the framed photograph of a long-gone husband and hundreds of hats from who-knows-what occasion - of a past that must seem like ancient history to the three-year-olds in the audience.

The relationship between girl and grandmother is playful and affectionate. In Heather Fulton's production, they continually test each other's limits; grandma teases, while granddaughter treads a line so close to naughtiness that only her broad smile can save her. Hungry for discovery, she can't wait to look inside the boxes, especially the one forbidden to her - the suitcase belonging to her grandfather. When finally she sees inside, the stars come out for a little piece of theatrical magic.

With a score by David Paul Jones, played live by Keith McLeish, the show is perfectly pitched at an age group for whom one of life's great dilemmas is the choice between a sweet and a surprise. The surprises win out, but it's touch and go. And by letting us finish with our own tea party - hats, knitted cakes, the works - Darwin-Edwards and Crawford make us feel welcome in the same imaginative world.

© Mark Fisher, 2012
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