Review from: Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 25th August 2023
Disclaimer: This one isn’t circus!
Taking a two-year old to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time wouldn’t be right without a visit to the charming Scottish Storytelling Centre. I don’t recall ever seeing anything that wasn’t high quality programmed there, and they know what makes a good kids’ show. What’s more, they have a lovely little cafe for lunch (baby’s first haggis!) and a neat wall of storybook pictures with doors and flaps and models and toys to keep the littles busy while you wait.
Grow, written and directed by Niall Moorjani and performed on our visit by Vickie Holden, is the simple tale of a gardener tasked with looking after a new plant. They don’t know what to do, so they ask the local wildlife, follow the advice, and wait for it to work… Holden is gentle and warm, with a twinkle in her eye, and ensures her slightly worried Gardener character is never intimidating for the tots amongst us. She puppets a friendly bumble bee, twitchy robin and snuffly hedgehog with ease as they buzz, twitter and grumble to her the three things plants need to grow. At first it seems like nothing is happening… but we get our happy ending, just in time for a visit from the Gardener’s friend.
Like all the best shows for the toddler age group, Grow creates space for the Gardener to connect with us all in person, and provides a range of interactions. We smell lavender, rattle seeds and – in an arts and crafts twist I didn’t know was coming – decorate our own flower pots to take home and plant our own seed gifts in! We sit on cushions spread out like a picnic blanket, leaving some space for squiggling (and there are some chairs around the edges too for those who don’t fancy the floor).
During the activity session, which takes place after the storytelling of the play, the Gardener and her Friend introduce the little bee and robin puppets to the children and their families. They’re on hand to help with the arty bits, and engage with the little ones busy at their tasks.
The play is just the right length to tell the story to the toddlers in the audience which, now schools have started back up in Scotland, is most of the crowd. It’s advertised for 0-5 year olds though, and I can imagine that older children would get involved much more vocally with the singing and call/response moments.
The choice of show has not disappointed, and I never hesitate to recommend the Scottish Storytelling Centre to Edinburgh residents or visitors with small children. Now I’ll also be recommending Grow to audiences elsewhere if it gets the tour it clearly deserves.