The Shape of Things
Clever and immersive introduction to shapes for early years audiences
Gently interactive, Ailie Cohen's latest piece of early years theatre introduces infants and toddlers to shapes – and plays with ideas of difference to bring those shapes to life.
A collaboration between Cohen and Marc Mac Lochlainn, The Shape of Things brings together Scottish early years specialists Starcatchers and Mac Lochlainn's Irish theatre company Branar Téatar.
The pop-up set, designed by Cohen, is under a huge umbrella, constructed from parachute material. Mobiles made from cubes of different sizes dangle from the struts. The audience – aged from six months to two years with their parents – sit around the central pillar while performers Saras Feijoo and Helen Gregg create their performance around them.
Into this immersive world of green and squishy fabric cubes, come shiny bright blue triangles – and the two shapes start to compete in a gentle manner.
The younger audience members (up to about 24 months), love interacting with Feijoo and Gregg, and their naming of the shapes – without ever resorting to dialogue – is almost subliminal.
While the two shapes take up residence under adjacent corners of the umbrella, in a third corner we find circles with a large hole, ringed with lights. Anything which enters emerges magically transformed: Gregg gets a clown's nose, Feijoo round glasses. A ball comes out bobbled in bright colours – and soon those over 24 months are enthralled, too.
As theatre, this demands a capacity for empathy from the performers to keep the interactions non-intrusive, which Feijoo has in buckets, Gregg less so. But this show certainly has something for all its target audiences. Even the parents get a resolution at the end – and everyone gets to roll around on the floor playing with shapes when it's finished.
Seen at Edinburgh Festival Theatre.