Often high marks are awarded to those companies who create a new world in the theatre through their use of advanced set, puppetry, props or movement so it is good to sometimes be reminded that bells and whistles are not necessarily the only things that make for a truly special show. The set for Esio Trot is little more than a trunk and a washing line. The props are little more than a couple of sketch pads, the puppets a bag of tennis balls. But the people are superb.
Jack Mosedale narrates the show as the acerbic Alfie the Tortoise, a wonderfully vinegary presence, keeping proceedings cracking along whilst successfully engaging the children and giving them their chance to join in. He manages to speak to these smaller members of the audience on their level without ever seeming patronising and his ability to draw out the shyest children is a joy to behold.
The show’s two main protagonists - Mr Hoppy and Ms Silver - are played with charm by Ben Pope and Helen Charman. His amiable weirdness gives him the feel of a living Quentin Blake character and her beautiful rhythm and diction allowing the dialogue to show its true comedy value.
Special plaudits, though, have to go to Dominic Biddle as Humphrey. Though playing only a minor character, his relentless energy and gift for physical comedy are what tie the show together, providing moments that will have both grown-ups and children laughing.
What makes this show a real must-see for parents is that they too will genuinely enjoy it. Except for a prolonged ‘pu’ section aimed squarely at the kids, the rest of the show is genuinely funny for both ages, and not just ‘funny-for-a-kids-show’. The company have managed to successfully tap the vein of slightly dark comedy which runs throughout all Roald Dahl stories and work in a knowing humour for the parents which won’t disrupt the experience for kids.
Esio Trot is a testament to what can be accomplished with a little originality and the will to do something excellent. At 10.30 it’s the ideal way to start a Fringe day on the best foot. A small show with a colossal heart.