For Families Reviews

THE RELUCTANT DRAGON - Munchkins & Monsters Theatre

The 60 seater hall was already full by the time I got there at 1.45. The excitement was palpable. All the space was filled, 50% kids and 50% selection of mums and dads. This was the Munchkins & Monsters Theatre Company’s first time at the Buxton Fringe. This was the show that young Dragon fans had obviously been waiting for and they weren’t to be disappointed. The skill of the storytelling and the wide-eyed, constant interaction with the cast by the children, who were left to their own devices on the floor in the front row, had the parents rocking with laughter. I’ve been to many family shows with my grandson and this one was up among the goodies. The acting was spot on and the story also written by Hannah Conway, Sue Finney, Dale Forder and Laura Richardson was presented at a non-stop pace. The opening music handled by Lewis Hassall set the mood of anticipation. The change of scenery was effortless and the back projection shadow puppetry and other dolls and animals used during the performance were very professional. All in all everyone had a good time. When I left I think that a good 60% of the audience were staying on for the dragon-making workshop. Apparently the company has a number of other family shows already in their repertoire which should come in handy for their definite return next year to the Fringe.

Jonathan Rowlands

A WILD WALK - THE GOLDEN THIEF - Babbling Vagabonds Storytelling Theatre

Local storytelling theatre group, Babbling Vagabonds invented an imaginative tale of bravery and self-discovery and wove it beautifully into a stroll around the woods.

The audience were encouraged to make their own tribute to the King, a colourful Royal rosette adorned with golden flowers and flowing ribbons before being escorted by the Royal Gardener and Acting Royal Minstrel to the Castle to present them.

All ages were entertained by His Majesty and Daughter, the perky Princess Pippin at the ceremonial plucking of the last remaining Royal Golden Apple. However, things were not looking good when the effervescent Ethel noticed that the famous fruit had been stolen!

A quest began, during which the audience sought out clues and helped the chosen hero to solve them. It lead from the Gate of Wonder to a magical world beyond, full of riddles, fearsome monsters (well, they were not-so-scary after all), heroic challenges and The Jelly of Doom!

Great fun for young and the not-so-young, this show involves and includes its audience through fine acting, fantastic costumes, magical mini-stages and lots of singing about daring deeds.

David Carlisle


Gordon MacLennan, aka Creeping Toad, did just what one expects from a story teller; he conjured up magical tales from ideas suggested by his audience of children. This storytelling event, held at Buxton Library, had the children and their accompanying adults entranced as they heard all about a young girl meeting a troll in Grin Low Wood. Changes in Gordon’s voice, a wide range of facial expressions and actions accompanying the story all helped enhance the tale.

There was plenty of opportunity for the children to contribute to the story by making suggestions. Initially Gordon had to tease out ideas but, as the children became more confident the number of suggestions increased.

Gordon structured this sessions well. After the first story has been concluded, children were invited to create their own stories. First they were given pictures of characters such as a troll, children with a dog and a princess and of course they had the choice of selecting a character of their own. Then they were given a piece of card to draw a setting for their character; a castle, a forest, a cave - in fact anything they can imagine. Characters and settings were coloured in and cut out to make 3D models. Whilst some children were busy doing that Gordon helped other children weave their own tales around what they have made. He is very experienced at interpreting exactly what children want to make and showed great sensitivity by helping one participant change an idea about how to make something. The joy on the child’s face in learning how to solve a particular construction problem was a joy to see.

Parents and carers were also free to join in.

The only disappointment was that so few children were there. It would most certainly have attracted more if it had been scheduled out of school hours. However Stone and Water are holding events at Buxton Museum every Thursday morning during the school holidays. They are also holding events in various Derbyshire villages so do check out their Facebook page.

Viv Marriott


I really don’t like the glib use of the word “amazing,” but in this case it is justified. Even though I suspect that I know how some of these sleights of hand are performed, I still can’t catch out the Magician.

Slick, speedy and professionally presented, the chatter and associated comedy fuse together to provide a memorable evening of crowd pleasing mystification by proving that the hand is indeed much quicker than the eye.

Magicians visited each of the seated audience’s tables for the extreme close-up elements before moving on to the next. The stage magic was interspersed in the intervals by effervescent Compere, Andy Hall.

Right under our noses we saw forks apparently bend themselves, “invisible” and “swallowed” cards reappear, ropes and rubber bands join and break apart just to join again, 20 pence pieces curl up and even fish appear inside a wine glass (please note that no fish were harmed, they’re actually specially-trained pets called Penn & Teller!).

Titans of timing and theatricals. Jacks and Kings of close-up card comedy. Doctors of distraction and Professors of prestidigitation. I could go on. In fact, one of the performers did go on…to become the UK Close-up Champion of 2012. Yes, they’re that good!

David Carlisle

CHELMORTON VILLAGE FESTIVAL 2018 - Chelmorton Festival 2018

Often popping up in the Fringe’s Other Events section, Chelmorton Village Festival is this year listed under For Families and it is certainly true that whilst not exclusively targeted at young people, the festival has a great deal to attract them, ranging from a cheeky dog show to dedicated stalls and activities at the Village Institute.

My annual review on the first day of Chellyfest is starting to feel like a bit of a pilgrimage (other Fringe reviewers are available…) but my routine was a little shaken today as neither the Village Institute art, quilts and produce exhibition nor the Village Church christening gown exhibition were available for viewing - this year both are starting on Wednesday.

Happily I still have a little Chelmorton lime marmalade left over from last year and there is always the thought that I could come back later in the week… a plan that would open up all sorts of other possibilities from Beetle Drive to Burbage Band Concert or Weigh the Sheep to Strawberry Cream Tea and Croquet.

In the meantime, I can report that the village scarecrows are in particularly fine fettle. I particularly enjoyed royal couple Harry (with wellies) and Meghan, Lilliput man Keith and - for sheer ingenuity - the ‘tap dancing’ Mycock plumber complete with an endlessly pouring tap that was seemingly unconnected to anything at all.

The whole village is already very colourful with its yarn-bombing and bright bunting but the festival proper has only just begun. Check out the full programme on their leaflet at the Fringe desk. Picturesque Chelmorton is less than 15 minutes’ drive away and full of history so well worth a trip out during the mayhem of the Fringe.

Stephanie Billen


Stone and Water brought the "Tiny!" creative play space back to the Fringe. As usual, it was located between the play area and the miniature train in the Pavilion Gardens. Aimed at nursery and infant children it provides paper, pens, scissors, fabric, toy sea creatures and loads of encouragement for children to make their own creatures for an "underwater" world. Sharks and mermaids seemed the most popular creatures while I was there.

Gordon Mclellan and Sarah Males are warm and welcoming and when children are shy or timid they allow time for the kids to grow accustomed to the space in the arms of their parents and decide for themselves how they want to participate. The play space has a fabric rock with knitted sea creatures and plants which can be used as a backdrop for the parents to take photos of their children's efforts before they take them home.

The event was a lovely addition to a sunny weekend in the Pavilion gardens.

Alex Watts


Jay Foreman provided a very hot audience with the most hilarious time!

He had a warm rapport with his audience. Jay exuded personality from his expressive face right down to his active toes. Yes his songs were disgusting but oh so funny. He involved both the adults and the children with his set that cracked along at an enthusiastic pace. The children loved him, with loads of laughing and excruciating groans at some of his more vile offerings. It really was a joy to hear the involvement in the Rotunda.

Children love Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and the children here today loved Jay Foreman’s Disgusting Songs’ which were witty, fast paced and ‘totally awesome’ (the totally awesome quote was from a 9 year old member of the audience who was still singing the Bim, Bim, Bim song at bedtime!) What a shame Jay was only here for the one show.

Jayne Marling

PETER PAN A MUSICAL ADVENTURE by Stiles and Drewe - Mad Hatters Music

This was just right for a sunny Saturday afternoon in festive Buxton. Raising many smiles, the Mad Hatter’s musical production of Peter Pan went with a swing.

This was Peter Pan played straight, the Darling children, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys in Neverland, Captain Hook (doubling Mr Darling, as is the tradition) and his pirate crew, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, ferocious fights, the ticking clock of the unseen crocodile, the audience clapping to revive Tinkerbell (of course we believe in fairies), and the touching relationship between Wendy and the Lost Boys. No one flew, but the idea was kept before us, and eventually we saw the small silhouettes of Peter, Wendy, John & Michael cross the face of the moon, undoubtedly in flight.

The story is presented here as a musical, a performing challenge met by all the young players with verve, and with considerable skill by the leading performers. The vigour of the band meant that sometimes the quieter voices of the younger performers were hard to hear, but for the most part the music and the text were put over convincingly by all the young actors and singers, infectiously involved in what they were doing. There is not space here to mention everyone who merits it, and no surnames are given in the programme, but Peter Pan (Annie), Wendy (Molly), and Mr Darling/Captain Hook (Caitlin) were excellent, and Hook’s sidekick Smee (Rosie) was amusing as well as capable of belting out a good tune with the best of them. The chorus transformed from Lost Boys to Pirates and back with ease and conviction, with musical, dance and fight routines filling the stage. Tinkerbell (Charlotte) is a dancer, and her dancer’s style of movement set her off neatly from the mortals, making her wistful jealously of Peter’s regard for Wendy the more touching.

The actors/choir are children from various schools throughout the High Peak, gathered together and trained by Clare O’Neill, peripatetic music teacher and evident powerhouse. She has had children pass though the group to go on to professional musical careers, as well as many who do it simply for fun. They perform at various venues through the year, including performing in operas for the Buxton Festival. Today’s group go from primary age to school leavers, with even the smallest given a few independent lines, and several very young persons carrying off starring roles with aplomb.

There are two more performances on Sunday 8th July – it is family friendly and also adult cheering, highly recommended for all but the most jaded (does Buxton in Festival time have those?).

Ursula Birkett


Parents of children under sevens ( including those with special needs) who can get to Buxton tomorrow morning (Sunday 8th) at 11am will be giving their offspring and themselves one of the most lasting and transformative gifts possible. Make it a priority! Change your plans now!! Forget swimming or the park and spend 50 minutes alongside your child, participating in in a rare, precious and hugely enjoyable experience. This is a beautiful piece of children's theatre with harmonious & evocative singing, tactile fabrics and clever characters, all of which combine to engage little people in a delightful story, complete with signing. More than merely entertaining, this exceptional, amazing (rightly) award-winning show has been on the road for two years and has brought both delight and hugely valuable lessons to over 3,000 young people. To be able to identify, express and learn to manage human emotions in a calm way from such a young age could transform not only individual lives, families and communities but drastically save our beloved NHS millions in Mental Health Services at a time when an unprecedented number of young people and teens are struggling. In my view this show should be a mandatory intervention for all preschool children and their parents: Education, Health and Arts funders should get behind this kind of innovative and effective work.

It was truly a privilege to witness the effect on the small group of very young children (and on their parents/grandparents) who made the smart choice to assemble upstairs at the Old Clubhouse this morning.

Despite the heat, I watched very young children, including a months' old baby, choose to pay rapt attention, listen, absorb, be delighted and educated. They were treated with such authentic gentleness and respect that they responded eagerly and appropriately, they didn't even mind becoming covered in bubbles! There was no screaming, whinging or whining! Yes, for 50 minutes! The energy in the room, even at joyful, active times was beautifully calm throughout. No, the young people were neither gagged nor restrained by their parents! In fact it was sweet to see them connect so lovingly with their siblings and carers.

It was remarkable to see how the young people instantly recognised the characters' feelings beneath their behaviour and realised how ineffective panicking is - all revealed through the delightfully acted story, which I won't spoil here.

Even the underlying neurochemistry of the show was simply explained and linked to the story and the actors' own parental experiences with lots of creative and imaginative ways and tips offered to get youngsters to breathe and move when they are upset! I am a little sad that my own children are now beyond the age of 13, up to which age the sound of my voice would have subconsciously calmed them.

Completing the experience with the opportunity to play with ribbon, fabrics, toys and do some fantastic drumming (even the baby and shyer ones had a go! ), everyone left, reluctantly, smiling and content. If we could have measured the natural endorphins before and after the show, I know what the results would have been.

So don't be afraid: be willing to be delighted and heartened by what is possible with young and open minds and hearts within our families, creatively and compassionately facilitated by these two talented and passionate therapists. I know I was.

Katie Barrett