Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

A one, a two, a one two three four!’

Thus begins the latest family-friendly production by Catherine Wheels, currently celebrating their twentieth anniversary and delighting children and parents alike. WhirlyGig is a rather unique collaboration, created by Daniel Padden and co-produced by Red Bridge Arts, where four talented musicians offer fifty minutes of pure entertainment.

Part of me wants to describe this as ‘silent clowning,’ though it’s anything but silent as Claire Willoughby, Rory Clark, Sita Pieraccini and Rory Haye bring out a collection of weird and wonderful musical instruments, and explore their possibilities. It’s musical clowning, I suppose. The cast don’t exchange more than half a dozen words with the audience but instead, let the instruments speak for them.

And they don’t specialise in tunes, so much as rhythms – rhythms that make us stamp our feet and twitch our shoulders and clap our hands. Moreover, the way they create these rhythms, becomes ever more eccentric, ever more absurd, the foursome working with tireless ingenuity. At one point, each instrument is played by two people simultaneously. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry… it really is! I suspect this show would work even better in a school setting, where children are with their peers rather than their parents.

If there’s any kind of central message in this collaboration, it is, I suppose, that making music together can be fun and that all of its rules are there to be broken. Any parents with budding musicians to entertain should make a beeline for the Traverse Theatre, though – to be honest – children don’t have to be musically inclined to enjoy this show; all the youngsters at the performance we attend are entranced by what’s happening on stage and I find myself in total agreement with them.

So, come on, get with the beat. Book those tickets now, before they’re gone!

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

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