I often revisit companies and venues at the Fringe, simply because I know that their work works for me. For excellent children’s entertainment, Tall Stories is usually my first port of call.
The company really made its name with amazing adaptations of Julia Donaldson books like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom but subsequent years have seen them take on properties like Mr Benn and The Snow Dragon with equal skill. So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I queued for this year’s offering, My Brother, The Robot.
It is good, but it’s also a bit different from previous Tall Stories shows. It tells the story of Bobbie, a young girl growing up in the next century, insulated from the outside world by her father, the famous inventor Professor Rossum. She can explore the world through her internet goggles but all she really wants to do is go to the beach with her dad. Everything changes though, when he finally finishes work on his most ‘human’ robot yet, the R4, and tell Bobbie to teach it everything she knows about the world.
This production marks an unusual shift in tone for Tall Stories. Its moral of not leaving children to be raised by technology, of encouraging them to explore their world and make their own mistakes, seems more applicable to the parents than the children.
This slightly-more grown-up attitude means that My Brother, the Robot lacks a bit of the energy of previous Tall Stories shows. It’s a lot slower to get started, for example, forcing us to wait almost half an hour before we meet R4 and the fun really begins. It’s also much less colourful and a little less visually interesting.
Happily though, the performances almost completely made up for any lost visual impact. Tim Hibberd is a wonderfully warm Professor Rossum and Alicia Marsden is sweet but not overly saccharine as the feisty Bobbie. Special mention though should go to Nathan Guy who turns in an impressive physical performance as both the slightly-clunker R3 series and R4, a new creature just developing his understanding of the world around him.
My Brother, the Robot is a lovely show which teaches a very sweet lesson about the meaning of family. Kids will be drawn in eventually and parents will enjoy it too but just be prepared for a little bit of fidgeting before the action kicks in.