Imaginate reimagined: Edinburgh International Children's Festival launches

Imaginate reimagined: Edinburgh International Children's Festival launches

Bambert's Book of Lost Stories / credit: Jon Green

With a new name and a new director at the helm, the event formerly known as Imaginate is looking more exciting than ever

A swimming pool, a stage filled with real grass, a cinema and a tiny house – just some of the locations audiences can find theatrical adventures this May. Formerly known as Imaginate, the newly titled Edinburgh International Children's Festival is back with nine days of unusual, quirky, inspiring, moving and dynamic theatre and dance for children and young people. And new director, Noel Jordan is feeling more than a little passionate about the 15 diverse works he's cherry picked for us from across the globe.

'It has been such a pleasure to curate my first programme for the festival,' he says, 'in fact a real privilege. I'm very much drawn to productions with a heart that really make us connect to our fellow human beings. Works like Narrow and The Queen has Vanished from Belgium, and Girl Asleep and Bambert's Book of Lost Stories from Australia help us imagine what life is like for others around the world in different places and in different times.'

All of the companies Jordan has programmed have thought outside of the box when it comes to presenting work, even if they're inside a traditional theatre space. Primo from Germany places pre-schoolers around a purpose built pool, with the performers immersed in water and peering out at us through portholes; You, Me and the Space Between from Australia invites audiences inside a paper set which is drawn on, ripped and patched up to explore environmental change; while Narrow for ages 6–12 finds two very flexible performers contorting themselves inside their tiny homes, to comic effect.

And, as always, a wide range of ages have been catered for, from gentle dance work MamaBabaMe for little ones aged 18 months–3 years, all the way up to Evil, a show from Denmark about bullying for children in P7 up to S4.

'Evil is hard hitting and at times brutal, and asks questions around how we cope when confronted with extreme situations,' says Jordan. 'It doesn't provide answers but it's a real life account of one young boy who will not back down when faced with repeated bullying.

'Having spoken to teenagers about the work, it confirmed my belief that young people don't just want to be entertained by theatre, they want to be challenged and inspired and encouraged to consider big important issues that make up their lives. And theatre is a safe place to do this, perhaps one of the last safe places when online environments can be complex and difficult to navigate.'

At the lighter end of the spectrum, Barrowland Ballet's Little Red, which wowed audiences over Christmas 2015, makes a welcome return.

'I love works that celebrate the outsider or help us examine well-loved stories in new and different ways,' says Jordan. 'Little Red is such a gem in this regard, and this dynamic Scottish company explores the tale of Little Red Riding Hood with fabulous humour and great skill. I highly recommend this work for family audiences on our final weekend as a great treat to experience together.'

Edinburgh International Children's Festival, various venues, Sat 27 May–Sun 4 Jun.

Five must see shows at Children's Festival

Imaginate reimagined: Edinburgh International Children's Festival launches

image: Primo
This tactile dance show for 2 to 4-year-olds includes a 20 minute 'stay and play' session afterwards, where children can explore sand, soil and vegetables. North Edinburgh Arts Centre, Thu 1-Sat 3 Jun.

Performed underwater, while the audience peers in through portholes, Primo is a beautifully lit adventure for ages 2–5. Assembly Roxy, Wed 31 May-Sun 4 Jun.

Night Light

Join Andy Manley on this magical journey for ages 3–6, about a little boy who can't sleep and longs to find out who looks after the night. Assembly Roxy, Tue 30 May-Sun 4 Jun.

The Queen Has Vanished
A sad king looks for his lost queen in this tale from Belgium for 5–12-year-olds, told through live music and vibrant illustrations. Studio at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 2-Sun 4 Jun.

Both scary and funny, this exciting vampire tale for ages 8–13 features colourful lightbulb puppets and a whole lot of suspense. Traverse Theatre, Thu 1-Sat 3 Jun.

Edinburgh International Children's Festival

Edinburgh's international children's festival of performing arts presents a programme of theatre, dance, storytelling and puppetry. It's an opportunity for children, their teachers and their families to see high quality Scottish and international shows. It's also a chance for programmers and artists to congregate, discuss…