Italian theatre company Scarlattine Teatro produce an alternative show based around sensory experience, and aimed at children under the age of five, as part of the Yurtakids! series. The show, performed in a yurt constructed in the grounds of Summerhall, centres on the feeling and sound of water and different kinds of metal chain. It involves three white-clad women performing wordless routines which can only be described as a fusion of yoga, martial arts, and dance. UnLeashed appears to have been designed as a move away from the bright colours and loud sounds of children's entertainment and the aim is to connect with children in a meditative and calming atmosphere.
While you can't dispute that the vision behind this show is a strong one, it seems Scarlattine Teatro have thought little about the practicalities of entertaining a group of children, all under the age of 5, for 45 minutes. Some children in the audience are captivated by the dreamlike sequences and the calming sounds of water and humming, but many children are restless and some seem pretty disconcerted. The three women in the cast rarely smile and, as the majority of the show is performed with the whole yurt in semi-darkness, you can understand why young children may be frightened.
The children do however get a great deal of enjoyment out of the section of the show in which they are encouraged to play with different textures of chain and to make noises with them on the ground, on metal plates, and on wood. This makes it clear that really all young kids want to do is bash around and make a mess – and the show would benefit from a more hands-on approach if the emphasis is indeed to be placed upon the children's sensory experience. The warning on the show's page on the Fringe website, which asks parents to make sure their children are 'comfortable' before the show in order that the performance is not disturbed is rather unrealistic. Of course children will want to get involved in the music-making aspect of this performance, but they cannot be expected to sit still for a nearly an hour of what is essentially a slow-motion dance.
UnLeashed stems from a strong concept and you can't argue with a kids show that has taken a decisive step away from the Mr Blobby-esque world of kids entertainment. Parents should take the plunge and bring their kids along to something a bit different, but the children should be encouraged to join in as much as possible. Toddlers really aren't as much into yoga as they are into making a mess.