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Robinson Crusoe the Lost Jedi Knight
Published on Sunday, 15 August 2010

3.5 stars

Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall (venue website)
6 - 22, 28, 29 Aug, 1:30pm (3:15pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

Not having a child of my own for cover, I try to be inconspicuous when I attend kids' shows, albeit with my press pass on clear display.  That wasn't possible for Robinson Crusoe The Lost Jedi Knight... on a Thursday afternoon, the place was absolutely packed, every last seat allocated, such that I had to stand at the front while venue staff shouted at the assembled audience to wave if they had a spare seat beside them where this lonely weirdo could sit.  They didn't actually say that last bit, but I offer the story to explain that this show is already wildly popular – and is the latest in a string of hit kids' shows from Spotlites.

It must be when I was a a child myself that I last read Robinson Crusoe, but I'm fairly sure that the connection between the Defoe original and this galactic adaptation is tenuous at best.  Here, Robinson Crusoe is a Jedi Knight who discovers that his Master has secretly turned to the Dark Side and is in cahoots with the Emperor himself, being named Darth Perfidious.  Crusoe tries to escape but is marooned on a distant planet when his X-Wing crash-lands.  There, he finds a droid called Friday, and discovers that the evil MacGuffin crystal the Sith Lords are after is on the same planet.

So far, so many Star Wars keywords.  The kids loved it, though, and about every other child in the audience had brought with them a toy lightsabre to wave energetically.  A member of the company makes an announcement to the children and parents beforehand, setting out the ground rules (wave and smile, don't shout, if you want to take part).  This is clearly a useful way to deal with so many excited youngsters and still get the play done.

There is a heavy emphasis on interactivity and participation, with the actors frequently stepping into the crown to find volunteers to help with some task or another (repairing the X-Wing, building a lightsabre, and so on).  They make rewards of luminescent bangles – a handy way to make sure the same kids aren't chosen repeatedly, to the detriment of other children present.

The children, clearly all fans of the Star Wars franchise, really seemed invested in the fantasy.  I wondered if, at points, the expository dialogue was a bit wordy and hard to follow – I found it slightly hard to get on occasion, so the kids may not have kept up with the finer details.  There was also no amplification of the actors vocals in what was a fairly large temporary theatre, and some of the performers weren't able to project adequately in that space.  And bona fide Star Wars geeks among the parents may be confused by how it all fits into the mythos – the Emperor is involved in the storyline, but he doesn't get established until the point when all the Jedi, bar Yoda and Obi-wan, have been killed.  A minor complaint, obviously, but I'd like to think that if I was a kid seeing the show I'd be obsessive enough to bug my dad about it.

Parents will also want to be aware that the participatory elements are restricted to children aged five and up, due to the occasionally physical nature of them (running and tagging, for instance).  I had to leave before the end of the play, missing the last ten minutes or so – it runs for an hour and forty minutes, with an interval, rather than the standard hour expected of Fringe shows – which means that I don't know how the story ends.  I presume that the magic crystal was located and kept out of the hands of the evil Sith, but that hardly matters.

What is important is that Robinson Crusoe the Lost Jedi Knight is an enjoyable and highly interactive treat, from a company with a wealth of experience in providing this sort of entertainment for children.  Kids who are fans of Star Wars will really get into this show and find it very rewarding, and it is easy to recommend on those grounds.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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