‘Jelly Or Jam’, by Ampersand, with support from Gravity & Other Myths

Review From: Underbelly Circus Hub, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 3rd August 2019

I wasn’t planning to review this show right now. I was planning to wait and do a kind of ‘kids circus round-up’ with some of the other shows I’m booked to see later in the week. But there are only 3 more opportunities for parents to get their young children along to this delightful, surprising and totally charming show. So I want to sing its praises straight up.

Take two super-skilled hand-to-hand acrobats, two moveable colour changing lights, two giant blocks of jelly, two big round floor mats, and the voices of a whole host of children interviewed about their brains and their feelings, and see what unfolds.

We’re welcomed in and our shoes and socks are safely pegged on racks before we find a space to sit around the central tape-marked ring. Sound effects between the pre-recorded snippets of children’s talk make squishy, squelchy sounds. It’s cute like the Haribo adverts, only way more interesting, because these children are talking about fascinating universal experiences. Trust. Relationships. Dealing with angry emotions. Treating each other well.

Jascha Boyce, one of the GOM co-founders, begins to play in the centre, stepping stones with the folded floor mats, opening them out and drawing us in by expanding the reach of the moveable floor lights. Her approaches to us in the audience are gentle and responsive, gauging who wants to play with simple mimicking games. She lights upon a man in the audience (Spoiler: It’s husband Joren Dawson), and draws him back into the ring to join in her playful explorations of what the simple props have to offer.

Musicbox tinkling takes over from the soundtrack of voices, part of Ekrem Eli Phoenix‘ soundscape that includes bubbly rock music and relaxing notes. Delicate lights glow over the acrobats’ hearts, and even when tensions rise between them, the show feels safe and lovely. Amusing yet gentle.

Which is not to say the pair don’t generate spontaneous communal gasps and oohs at the riskiness of their acrobatic tricks. Balancing on a firm jelly moulded to the size of a large birthday cake is just the start. As the jelly passes between them, and gets broken down, the ground and their body parts become slippy and sliding games ensue. It really is edible jelly, which the team set themselves overnight before each show. It doesn’t taste great though, as they’re careful to demonstrate.

‘Jelly or Jam’, by Ampersand supported by Gravity & Other Myths IMAGE: Kate Pardy

The moment the realisation hits me of why we’ve taken our shoes off is the moment I realise I’ve fallen in love with this wonderfully crafted show. Advertised for ages 0+, I’d guess from looking around that it’s particularly great for 3-6 year olds, but at 38 I am also so happy that work like this exists. There are two more dedicated early years circus theatre shows at Edinburgh Fringe this year and, along with the equally charming Plink & Boo which I saw last October, this seems to be a growing area for artists. All the better for the children who get the joy of experiencing these shows first hand.

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