The Space on the Mile, Edinburgh
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: we are very definitely NOT this show’s target audience. It’s billed as suitable for 3+, which I’d say is about right – and the other adults here are accompanying wains. We’re not. We don’t have any. We wouldn’t usually come along to something designed for those so many years our junior, but we met Chloe Din (who stars as Penny) last week, while queuing for another show, and she talked us into it. What can we say? Her enthusiasm convinced us.
So here we are, and it’s a pleasure. Din and her co-star Dominic Myers have an easy rapport with their young audience, hitting just the right levels of pep and silliness. This play, adapted from a story by Ian Dunn (who also directs), is a cautionary tale, all about… pasta and sauce. Penny’s mum works for the NHS. She’s been doing lots of overtime, so she’s tired, and Penny’s dad is busy too, faced with the dual task of working from home and trying to find where his mischievous daughter has hidden his iPad. Unable to face another takeaway, Penny decides to help out – by cooking her mum’s favourite dinner, spaghetti bolognese. It’ll be a surprise she thinks.
And it is.
A very big surprise.
Because, after all her careful preparation, Penny’s dinner doesn’t just sit in the pan like dinners usually do, waiting to be served. Instead, it leaps out, and introduces itself as ‘Spag Bol.’ Penny is delighted with her new friend, and the pair embark on a series of adventures…
There’s Nothing Quite Like Spaghetti Bolognese! is an engaging and likeable piece of theatre. There is some audience interaction (we are split into three groups to provide the sound effects for the cooking scene, for example), but I think they would do well to include more of this. There are some repeated rhymes, which go down a storm with this young audience, and lots of lively songs, which also work well, despite a ‘ukelele malfunction’ when a string breaks about half way through, meaning that rather more of them are a cappella than I imagine is intended. No matter: Din and Myers forge on with gusto, and I doubt the children even notice.
Spag Bol’s costume deserves a mention of its own: it is a fantastic creation, imaginatively crafted from wool, and weirdly convincing.
The ending is a bit chaotic, and I’m not really sure why. It feels as if something has gone awry, because it finishes uncertainly with no clear signal that we’re done. The applause at first is tentative, and everyone looks confused. This is a shame, because it sends us out on the wrong note, wondering what happened rather than humming the final tune.
Still, if you’re in Edinburgh with small children and want to keep them entertained, this is sure to do the trick. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a warning not to play with their food…