On a grey yet promising day in the middle of the Fringe I found myself queuing outside the Pleasance Courtyard, being greeted by a young man in overalls displaying an almost indecent amount of energy for so early an hour. 'Come in everyone, we need your help with the Machine!' he urged.
This was Clickity -or possibly Clunk, we never did quite establish which way round the names went- one of two assistants trying to fix the broken Machine used to sow seeds around the planet. Left in charge of repairing it, the loveable and comedic double act attempt -with a significant amount of audience help- to fix the machine and save the world from disaster, destruction and a dearth of their beloved chocolate pie.
Enigmatic and enthusiastic, it was clear the two actors had a way with kids from the moment they first invited them to sit on beanbag cushions at the front. Speaking to one mum of four after the show she told me 'that was a great idea, young children don't want to sit still on a chair for an hour.' Indeed the beanbags appeared to be a hit, with the children closely engaged in the action, with only the odd bit of running and diving onto them and making nests to counteract it.
However having the children so close to the action on stage did not come without its problems as individuals began to shout out suggestions, stories and reprimands. These were dealt with smoothly by the actors who, clearly well used to improvisation, adapted the dialogue around the things being shouted at them. Even more exciting for the children was the prospect of being invited onto the stage to push buttons, fit batteries or ride bikes all in an attempt to fix the Machine. Clamouring to be the one involved, the children were chosen fairly by the actors and seemed delighted. Jack, 8, told me -'my favourite bit was when we cycled to get it started- I did most of it!'
Such child involvement together with a good and interesting plot and some good physicalisation makes this show a must see. Immersive and engaging fun for all the family, 'The Machine' is an excellent example of how fun children's theatre can be, if you can stand the energetic early start!