For Families Reviews

ROMANS IN THE PEAK DISTRICT - Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Roman Samian pottery (credit: Derbyshire County Council)

If you can make it past the terrifying bear, Buxton Museum has a fascinating room on Buxton in Roman times. In addition today, there were lots of fun activities to help children find out all about what the Romans did and what they left behind in the Peak District.

Down in gallery two you could attempt various quizzes, do some colouring in, make a lead pig (its an ingot, rather than farmyard animal!), and try to identify various Roman objects - I liked the wax tablets, perhaps I could submit this review on one? My daughter particularly enjoyed making mosaics, and my son loved the ever popular dressing up table, I think he tried on almost every conceivable Roman garment, mostly all at the same time!

Lots of fun was had by all - and of course you can always go upstairs, brave the scary bear and say hi to the Roman soldier!

Steve Walker

THE CLOCK MASTER - Sparkle and Dark's Travelling Players

The Clock Master

Sparkle and Dark have brought dark and intense storytelling to Underground Venues in an excellent show told in rhyme and with the aid of puppetry, music and movement. A hoity-toity young girl enters the Clock Master's shop and wants to sell him, what she finds to be a very boring pocket watch, a family heirloom passed down from her father. Before he will accept it the Clock Master tells the girl three stories to see if he can change her mind.

The stories are based on items in the shop, the Clock Master tells of a greedy girl who tries to steal a beautiful, if slightly sinister, clockwork girl, and about a princess who broke a witch's music box and is cursed to have her happy memories fly away as soon as she has them, but with the aid of a dancing flute-playing monkey (!) confronts the evil two-headed witch. The final story concerns the pocket watch itself, what will the girl do when she finds out its secret?

The set and props are incredibly detailed and wonderfully realised, and have created a magical world of the Clock Master's shop. The puppetry and ensemble playing is superb as two and three actors combine at times to bring to life clockwork girls, witches, birds, a lethal dog and more! Music is used cleverly as guitar and flute are used to create and enhance the mood throughout the piece, though perhaps the song is unnecessary. There is also some clever animation projected on the back wall, particularly when illustrating the princess's lost memories.

The writing is taut and the first two tales told by the Clock Master cohere well with the framing story of the girl selling the watch. The third story runs on a little too long and could be tightened up, the watch passes through too many hands and the tale seems repetitious. But then again, maybe I'm being churlish because this is a very good show indeed. It is darker than many family shows, but the children didn't seem too worried by that! The quality of entries in the For Families section of the programme has been very high this year and this is one of the very best shows out there.

Steve Walker

TINY! - Stone & Water

Tucked under the canopy of a tree in front of the children's playground in Pavilion Gardens, artists Gordon Maclellan and Sarah Males had picked a great place sheltered from the occasional rain showers on Tuesday afternoon.

Their welcoming camp was full of all kinds of craft materials, and a steady stream of children came to try their hand at creating tiny people and tiny lanterns. It was amazing to see how quickly the children (and a few adults!) were able to pick up the necessary skills and use pipe-cleaners, tissue, paper, pens, food dye and even twigs and leaves to produce mermaids and brides and musicians, as well as decorated lanterns complete with little flickering lights inside!

Sarah and Gordon are friendly, patient and very helpful hosts and the children were fascinated by the activity, and occasionally reluctant to leave! The culmination of the day is a lantern parade at 6:30pm where all the figures and lanterns made during the day can be seen, and best of all you can take what you've made home with you!

TINY! will be happening again in the same place between 2pm and 5pm on Wednesday 21st July, drop in at any time during the afternoon. You can also pick up a leaflet detailing further activities with Stone and Water over the coming months.

Stephen Walker

TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN! - Little Pixie Productions

Postcard from Flo and Ruby

Little Pixie productions romped away with the Best Family Show in 2009 with the very popular "What Became of the Red Shoes?" and now they're back with an all new adventure featuring Granny and Ruby as they head off to the seaside at Darley-on-Sea.

The story is beautifully nested within different layers as two deckchair attendants, Horace and Harold, take a tea break and read the story of the unclaimed Darley Golden Trophy. As they do they move into character as Granny and Ruby who are talking about Granny's trips to the seaside in her youth and discovering a mysterious cryptic postcard from 1938. Before long Granny and Ruby are acting out a trip to the seaside and embarking on the adventure promised in the postcard.

This time round there is a second actor, Claire Lever, bringing Ruby to life and joining Rebecca Little as Granny, and they produce a show that is consistently inventive and entertaining. There's so much good stuff going on its hard to pick anything out, but we loved the routine as the cleverly designed set was changed from Granny's living room to the seaside, the fun with the deckchairs and the miming of all the funfair rides. The kids (from two to, ahem, considerably older) needed absolutely no encouragement to join in with the actions in the song about paddling in the sea - so maybe we could have more audience interaction?

No opportunity to entertain is missed and the show is wonderfully thought through from beginning to end. On entering the room we were greeted by the two actors as Horace and Harold who gave us tickets for our deckchairs (and make sure you hold on to them!), and afterwards there's an opportunity for the children to investigate the props that were used in the show.

This is an absolutely charming show - we loved it, my son was riveted and I couldn't stop smiling - it's perfect for families and younger children.

Turned Out Nice Again is on at the United Reform Church on Hardwick Square on 18th July at 2:30pm, and at Buxton Methodist Church Hall on 24th July at 2:30pm and 4:30pm.

Steve Walker

JIM MACCOOL'S POETRY AND SONG SHOW - October is National Poetry Month

Jim MacCool

Jim MacCool performed his impressive array of poetry and song at Bookstore Brierlow Bar on the afternoon of Saturday 17th July, completing three sessions of dramatic poetry and celtic songs to an audience of weekend book browsers and buyers.

He performs within the shanachie or travelling bard tradition of British dramatic poetry, and his delivery contains a clarity and forthrightness that commands both attention and respect.His self-penned Ionan Tales are inspired by the Canterbury Tales and have been performed to great critical acclaim the world over.

He also featured a selection of Irish and Scottish folk ballads, and his impressive vocal range resounded around the 5,000 square feet of bookspace, causing an elderly couple in the adjacent coffee area to reconsider their proximity to the performance, only to comment later that they had indeed enjoyed the experience at a slightly greater distance.

As the proprietor of the venue I have to commend both his attitude and his fortitude, in relatively trying circumstances; the bookstore itself not really lending itself to this genre of performance. Jim himself however had wanted to 'rehearse' a bookshop environment as an alternative to the regular and more conventional venues he attends.

One further point of reference possibly worth noting: as someone who, nowadays, very rarely attends gigs of this nature, it reminded me of an experience in the 1960s when I staged a performance by the Liverpool Poets (Adrian Henry, Brian Patten and Roger McGough if I remember rightly) at a rock venue I promoted, and, oddly enough, they attracted more 'groupies' than the rock bands.

Such an attendance was conspicuously absent on this occasion, but it's good to know that the tradition of 'live' and informal performance poetry survives intact into a new century.

Reviews by the proprietor of a Fringe venue may not be the norm and I hope someone can be persuaded to journey to the far flung outer fringe next year for whatever we may promote . It isn't MUCH colder out here than the centre of Buxton.

David McPhie


Michael and Siobhan Jordan

Let me start by assuring you that your reviewer is neither a stooge nor a plant for High Jinx, and after my brief moment on stage as one of their glamorous assistants I have no idea how they do it either. The blindfolds were good, they couldn't have seen the object I took from the box, yet of course, they knew what it was.

Though I should say that of the three objects chosen, Michael guessed one wrong while his sister Siobhan got them all right. No doubt that's further grist to the mill of the sibling rivalry that they play so well on. Elder brother Michael is the Magic Circle's young magician of the year, and the show demonstrates the full range of his abilities in magic, illusion, juggling and even a song. There are plenty of classic tricks well presented with his nice line in self-deprecating humour, and some such as the wonderful "Sleight of Gut" which will leave you looking on in fascinated horror - the kids will love it!

Siobhan is a talented magician in her own right, showcasing her Sands of Siobhan trick. She is also very, very funny - her deadpan expression and repertoire of shrugs, eye-rolling and disbelieving glances leaving the audience giggling.

There were a few technical hitches with lights that wouldn't dim, which did take away from some of the tricks, and disrupted the flow as they waited for lighting cues that didn't come. It is largely the same show as last year's Fringe award-winner but with enough new material, and engaging humour to keep it fresh.

This is a show that is never less than highly entertaining, with an audience that didn't want to leave at the end as they stayed in their seats discussing what they'd just seen and asking each other the same question - how do they do that?

Misdirected continues at the Pauper's Pit on Monday 12th at 6:30pm, Saturday 17th at 1pm, Sunday 18th at 6:30pm and Saturday 24th at 1pm.

Steve Walker


Chester and Esther escape!

9th July 2010

Perhaps the best review is just to quote the boy who left the Pauper's Pit in front of us, "I want to see OOK again!"

But what is OOK? Well, all I can tell you is that it is the best ever thing in the world ever, and along with Chester and Esther Pocklington it's the only thing that can stop the world from being gobbled up! The cursed Piggybank of Doom is on the loose and they set off on quest involving a lost city, a goddess and crocodiles.

It's knockabout fare with lots of fun and silliness, yet with enough irony floating around to keep the adults chuckling, particularly a nice sideways glance at the power of advertising. William Tombs (who also wrote the play and made the masks) and Rachel Alexander perform with fun and verve, using masks and puppetry to play the many different characters - we loved Greasypants and Tom Redfern the manic TV newsreader. There's a lovely sense of play as they drop out of character to bicker with each other, and comment on the theatrical devices they're using.

OK, so the script could be tightened up and the songs maybe went over the heads of the kids a bit but it's great fun and engaged the children to the extent that after the play ended they were on the stage to see what was going on behind the backdrop, what had happened to the characters, and looking at the props.

And as I write my not quite five year old son is still re-enacting the All-Devouring Piggy Bank of Doom in our living room - interrupting the usual hegemony of Ben 10 is a pretty good achievement.

Enjoy the remaining performances at Underground Venues in the Pauper's Pit on Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th July at 2:30pm.

Steve Walker

THE FOOL - The Jester of Buckingham

The Jester of Buckingham

11th July 1pm to 2pm an 14th July 5pm to 6pm in Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit

Sam Cross as the Jester of Buckingham immediately establishes an attractive persona and a good rapport with the audience, especially the younger members. An engaging silliness allied to mild incompetence is his line and the young people loved it.

I think he comes from the street performance tradition, at least it feels like the pace of development is better suited to building a crowd before starting the show. I think this is something Sam will work on. Even for the kids things need to move along quicker.

Sam is clearly an extremely adept prestidigitator. Watching him handle cards would dissuade you from playing poker with him and the main card trick is a spectacular. We could have done with more of this.

So, an engaging show which will hopefully speed up and include more tricks.

Look out for Sam in the park on Fringe Sunday (July 11th 2 to 4:30pm).

John Wilson

THE RAINBOW UNDER THE SEA by Martin Beard - The REC Drama School


Nice Venues Marquee, Poole's Cavern

The McLallan family are back! Last year, in 'The Dark Angel', they were trapped inside a terrifying computer game; this year the five children, while trying to reach a rainbow become stranded in an under sea vortex full of other groups of lost people who have arrived in this place and have grown younger. An adventure ensues and the plot slowly becomes more complex. As one of the smugglers announces 'I'm really not kidding, I haven't a clue what's going on!"

The cast of 27 portray some beautifully worked caricatures, some with accents to suit; many familiar personalities which I'm sure will remind you of people you know or have met.

For me the central and most enjoyable character was 'Sean The Leprechaun', played by James Chetwood. His was a well crafted personality developed through his lines and cleverly adopted Irish accent.

Also enjoyable was the Einsteinian, Nutty Professor; the horned rimmed Lawyer and the pair of Snorkelers; I could probably list most of the cast because each contributed to the laughter and thorough enjoyment of this performance.

A clever, well paced script required that the cast maintain a rapid banter between themselves and apart from a couple of silences (first night nerves) they did this confidently and effectively and kept me absorbed and therefore entertained.

This 45 minute show was great fun and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you. It was good to be young again!

Martin Wood