Child’s Play

Child’s Play

Lying Down

Imaginate festival

Going to the theatre means sitting quietly in a row, right? Not at the Imaginate festival discovers Kelly Apter

Now that it’s settled into its new name, the event formerly known as the Children’s International Theatre Festival is finding bigger and bolder ways to spread its wings. This year, the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival has shows in no less than seven locations around the Capital, not to mention its extensive ‘on tour’ programme.

Imaginate’s chief executive, and the man responsible for finding these theatrical gems each year, Tony Reekie explains why. ‘It’s partly intention and partly forced on us by the companies,’ he says. ‘Traditional spaces don’t really work in a lot of cases, they’re not flexible enough to allow these pieces to be enjoyed in the way the companies intended.’

So, alongside more obvious Edinburgh venues, Imaginate is using studios at Dance Base and a patch of land at the Royal Botanic Garden. Ironically, the Dance Base shows don’t contain any dance, but one of them promises to give children an interesting visual perspective. Performed by Dutch company, BonteHond, Lying Down takes place amid a sea of mattresses, on which audience members can sit or lie.

‘In the Netherlands and Flanders they spend a lot of time working on the environment for the audience,’ says Reekie. ‘They’re interested in the whole sensory experience, and know that children are happy to look around them and be surprised and delighted by different things that go on.’

Belgian company, Studio ORKA also thinks outside the box with their innovative show Lava. Stepping inside a beautiful, purpose-built wooden tent at the Royal Botanic Garden, audiences are drawn into a bizarre geological dig searching for little people underground. ‘It’s an unusual show and an absolute joy,’ says Reekie. ‘And there’s an environmental message in there too, about what happens when you interfere with the earth. But it’s education by stealth that you don’t even notice, because of the sheer joy of being with three slightly deranged geologists.’

As usual, Reekie has programmed a wide range of shows to keep all ages happy, from toddlers upwards. This year, however, those at the older end of the spectrum are being especially well catered for, with five shows targeted at ages ten and eleven plus. And once again, unusual surroundings abound. ‘In The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy you enter a 19th century Victoriana storytelling booth full of wind-up projections,’ explains Reekie. ‘And you’re told the story of a boy from another world who’s made of cheese. It’s a shameless excuse to emote.’

While it’s fair to say that the Imaginate Festival has plenty of comedy, there’s also a good deal of poignancy – something accompanying adults often don’t expect but clearly enjoy. ‘Imaginate is for everybody,’ says Reekie. ‘It has to be a truly collective experience in terms of making sure there’s something there for the adults and carers who come along with the children and young people. Because often, what really good theatre for children does is trigger off a lot of memories in adults.’

Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, Mon 25 May–Mon 1 Jun and on tour. See listings for details.

Edinburgh International Children's Festival

Edinburgh's international children’s festival of performing arts presents a programme of dance, storytelling and puppetry, suitable for anyone with an imagination.

Various venues: Edinburgh

Sat 25 May

Times & prices to be confirmed / 0131 228 1404

Sun 26 May

Times & prices to be confirmed / 0131 228 1404

Mon 27 May

Times & prices to be confirmed / 0131 228 1404

…and 6 more dates until 2 Jun

The Enfield Pageant of Motoring

Motoring weekend with fairground, stunt displays, music and more.

The Playing Fields, Enfield

Sat 25 May

£10 (under 12s free) / 02083671898

  • 09:00 – 18:00

Museum of Dreams

Multimedia show about a dusty old museum brought to life by a magical new exhibit.

Pero or Mysteries of the Night

A mix of puppets, actors and live music tell this story of friendship and love for ages 6+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.


Fevered Sleep presents an imaginative show about bedtime for ages 3–5.

Songs From Above

Teater Refleksion and Teater My present a magical, musical adventure under the stars for a very young audience. Ages 2-4. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

Under the Carpet

Welsh company Theatr Iolo presents Sarah Agents play about Nonno and Lol, a pair of old friends who love telling stories. Ages 3-5. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

The Book of Beasts

Children's theatre company Catherine Wheels presents a play about little boy Lionel and the wretched Book of Beasts, that once opened unleashes a wicked red dragon. Ages 5+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

Lying Down

So laid back it's horizontal, for this show by BonteHond about bedtime stories and the imagination the space is turned into a mattress palace. Ages 5+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

Peter Pan

Combining shadow puppetry and vibrant storytelling, the classic adventure Peter Pan is brought to life by the combined forces of Visible Fictions, The Children's Theatre Company, Minneapolis and renowned Italian shadow artist Fabrizio Montecchi from Teatro Gioca Vita. Ages 8+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate…

Story of a Family (and Everyday Things)

A look at families, in all their shapes and forms, though the eyes of a child. Ages 10+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.


The fearsome stories of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I as enacted in a recording studio by Swiss company Theater Sgaramusch. Ages 10+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy

We're promised 'Oedipus meets Edward Scissorhands' in this tale of a despondent boy whose home planet has melted into fondue. Ages 10+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

Ugly Child

Lieve lives a tragic life and only seems to make things worse in this play about an outcast child by Dutch company Stella Den Haag. Ages 11+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

Thick Skinned Things

The story of a girl who live underground like a mole, such is her crippling shyness. Ages 11+. 'Part of the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival'.

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