Terrible Infants

Edinburgh is a great place to take risks on a show, but I’m sure we all also like to have a few safe-bets in our calendar to make sure a brief visit to the Fringe has some guaranteed high points. The Terrible Infants is unusual because it falls into both camps. Not a TV headliner, which means many will have never heard of them, but they have a deserved good reputation which justifies their appearance at the largest of the Pleasance spaces.The traveling showman style is deliberate, enhanced with music, make-up and material that evoke a Burton-esque world of fantastic tales. Emerging from a downstage suitcase, ringmaster Oliver Lansley oversees his eclectic troupe of performers as they immerse the audience in a series of short-stories of modern morality told with a distinctly Edwardian (both the era and of the Scissorhands) twist. The stories include Tumb, the boy so hungry he ate his Mum, Manky Mingus, who had personal hygiene issues, Linena, the girl made of cloth who ends up in the washing machine, the heart-wrenching Thingummmyboy who goes unnoticed to the point of disappearance and Beatrice with her chatter so incessant it attracts a beehive to form in her hair – all woven around the story of Tilly and her tail, which grew with every fib that she uttered.Each tale is completely engaging. This team of actor-musicians use every form of theatricality to bring characters to life with simple – but stunningly effective – props. Song, shadow play, puppetry, verse, choreography and even scripting of the follow-spot operator come together to create a masterclass in stagecraft. There is a beautiful attention to detail here that makes it easy to see why so much critical praise is poured onto The Infants. Dialogue is thrown from actor to actor like a ball. There is extraordinarily well-honed teamwork and tight direction that makes you think even the smallest gesture of the hand is there for a reason. It's a pleasure to watch those so skilled at their trade.For those that caught the show when it was up her in 2007, it’s definitely worth a return visit. Not only because the production is just so enchanting, but the new tale – Beatrice – is not to be missed. Voiced by showbiz royalty, Judi Dench, it features a combination of props and lighting so effective as to cause today's audience to burst into spontaneous applause. And rightly so.

Reviews by Sue Denham

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★★★★★
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The Blurb

This award-winning show returns to Edinburgh for one week only! Puppetry, live music and storytelling combine in this theatrical feast. 'Like giving your inner child an enormous sack of sweets.' (Metro) 'Captivating.' (Stage). 'Beautiful' (Evening Standard).