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Bubblewrap and Boxes
Published on Saturday, 11 August 2012
4

4 stars

Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue website)
Childrens
1-12, 14-19 Aug, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Reviewed by Alasdair Lane

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

A cardboard box. Perhaps the most dull and unexciting object to an adult's eye, but fuelled by the exuberance of a child's mind, it's a source of endless playtime possibilities. It is understandable, then, that Australian duo Asking For Trouble chose this humble item as the cornerstone of their show Bubblewrap and Boxes, making a return from last year's Fringe. Though it may not have your little ones rolling in the aisles at every turn, it's a magically fun and thoughtful performance which captivates both young and old alike.

A set of towering boxes plays host fto the adventures of a highly strung mailroom custodian and an entertainingly unruly new arrival. It's a good premise. The story unfolds with the incorporation of some really great elements, from a classic cat-and-mouse chase round the set to gasp-eliciting acrobatics. The real winner was the make-believe world tour following the story of lost postcards - from walking the streets of Paris to a Tongan underwater adventure. Even the older kids' scepticism was challenged by this enchantment.

As with any children's show worth its salt, the characters are larger than life and the acting is very much over the top. Owing to the limited dialogue, there's real energetic buffoonery to the performances - outstretched arms and cocked fingers point in terror at a rogue parcel, and after a second's pause a howl of sheer dread escapes from quivering lips. Entertaining stuff for sure, though funnily enough it was that eardrum-piercing scream - repeated by the leading man at least twenty times over the course of the show - which audibly irritated the audience most (myself very much included).

There were also some noticeable lulls in the jocular material. Minute after minute of watching a man dusting boxes can be construed as eloquently arty to an adult audience, but the splutters of children's laughter were all too obviously absent at such times. That being said, the duo were often inspired in their involvement of the crowd - entangling a delighted front row in hazard tape or having the youngsters read out on-stage signs for them (a trick you could tell the proud parents really appreciated). Such was the success of this scripted audience participation that at any given time, a little-one would direct an excited exclamation at the stage: "it's only a box!", in response to the rogue parcel fiasco.

Bubblewrap and Boxes are a welcome presence on the Fringe for their second year running. It may take a little while to get the kids laughing (and that scream still haunts me to this day), but when they do you'll be hard pushed to find one who isn't a tad disappointed at the sight of the curtain. The fun doesn't have to end there though, as the performers warmly invited their fans to send them their own messages - a first-class send off indeed.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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