Joe's Cautionary Tales

Hungry Wolf presents an energetic and enthusiastic offering for children at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. At times a little too enthusiastic for its own good, it nevertheless retains a charm and determination that must be admired.

A pleasant effort from all involved, Joe’s Cautionary Tales is still worth a peek to see this young ensemble fully commit to their experiment with Children’s Theatre.

Through extensive puppetry, a tale is spun about the glories and dangers of adventure. Joe lives with his grandparents who, to his irritation, hold him back from his adventurous urges. They eventually reveal their reasoning; they fear Joe may be like his parents who mysteriously vanished on their own adventures.

The story seems to progress at the speed of light and is at times somewhat difficult to follow. One moment Joe is being bullied, the next he’s talking about monkeys and suddenly a spaceship has crashed. Though the show is billed at running for 40 minutes, our performance seemed to finish after half an hour and this might account for the hurried feel to proceedings. The cast’s endless energy and enthusiasm almost work against them; it’s a battle to keep up at times and it’s a battle that some of the children don’t seem willing to fight.

The cast cannot be faulted for effort. Indeed, some of the puppetry is excellent. Eden Myall and Dan Ogalvie stand out with their performances as Grandma and Grandad, whilst Bailey Pilbeam successfully holds the show together as Joe. Some of the chorus members do need to focus more on their puppets rather than their own acting however. At times, some seem to neglect the puppet in favour of their own facial expressions and allow the puppet to become unanimated and forgotten.

However, the children are readily allowed to engage with these puppets. Indeed, the decision to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the show allowing the children to play with the puppets is well judged. Before the narrative truly begins, the younger children are allowed to feel comfortable and secure with this strange new medium. The show advertises itself as suitable for ages 2 and up, but I do question this slightly. Though the aforementioned introduction moment is suitable for this age group, the script itself is a little complex for them. It does have a clever edge to it which I can appreciate, but a toddler probably would not. The rhyming scheme does help make things a bit simpler, but I feel that the majority of the show is probably suited for children a year or two older.

A pleasant effort from all involved, Joe’s Cautionary Tales is still worth a peek to see this young ensemble fully commit to their experiment with Children’s Theatre.

Reviews by James Beagon

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The Blurb

A young boy's quest for adventure, charming dragons, fighting monsters, ballooning through the Himalayas and seeking the advice of an alien just outside the Milky Way! Puppets, song and storytelling fun for all the family! A magical journey to capture the imaginations of the whole family! Written and directed by Dave Jackson, ITV and BBC Radio 4 Young Comedy Writer of the Year.