This show is something of a smorgasbord of family entertainment. With a revolving line-up of performers, Huggers aims to appeal to adults with its cabaret format while still being child friendly. The crowd was warmed up by our compere, a man who seemed far too hip and young to be at a kids show. His attitude belied his exterior however and he got everyone involved instantly by getting us to pretend that we had all been transported to France or the monkeys’ cage at the zoo. By asking children about their superpowers he warmed up them up for the interactive nature and set the tone for the show. Several of his jokes might have gone over some of the audience’s heads but he was so skilful at getting them to engage with him in other ways that they did not notice. His real talent was to use the off-the-wall suggestions of the younger audience to put together a credible start to the show.
After being introduced by the bouncy compere, the first performer was Rik Carranza, a youthful Edinburgh local who picked a fight with a small boy over which of them was the real Batman. He led us in a few rousing verses of Old MacDonald and got two of the children to participate on Nerf gun duel. As he put it, in Huggers the children are the ‘stars of the show’ and Carranza was careful to make sure that as many of the children who had something to say got the chance to say it. He was followed by Martha McBrier, whose gentle sense of humour works well with an adult audience without alienating the children. She got us to sing an unaccompanied jazz number all about her pet boa constrictor, Fluffy.
However, I could not help feeling slightly disappointed by Huggers. It has evidently had huge success in the past, which was shown by the fact that, although a free show, you have to book a ticket. Yet it did not seem to be providing anything that many other children’s shows at the Fringe do not. Participation, sing-alongs and an adult friendly sense of humour can be found elsewhere at the Fringe and often in a better form than this. There were a limited number of laughs, despite this packed venue and it felt a bit of a cop out to rely so much on sing-alongs when these are clearly all talented performers. Enjoyable then, but it would have been nice to see something that really stretched the capacities of the audience and the performers.