The Undersea World of Bubble McBea
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 20-Sun 22 Jun
The words ‘children’ and ‘opera’ aren’t often found in the same sentence. But over the past few years, Scottish Opera has managed to make the artform not just accessible, but great fun. The Undersea World of Bubble McBea is the third production the company has created for children – and for the first time, they’re opening it up to public audiences, not just schools.
Aimed at three-to-six-year-olds, the opera is set on a small Scottish island, where young Bubble McBea lives with her madcap father, Barnacle. Featuring puppetry, dance, animation and lots of songs, the creators wanted the show to work on a number of levels. ‘I’m always aware that entertainment like this has to be family-orientated,’ says composer, Alan Penman. ‘I don’t see any point in doing something that grown-ups get nothing out of. And chances are a three-year-old isn’t going to follow all the plot developments – so you have to make it look visually good and sound interesting.’
An environmental tale, in which Bubble discovers a group of creatures being poisoned by rubbish thrown into the sea, the opera sends a message without being preachy. ‘We don’t expect five-year-olds to turn into eco-warriors,’ says Penman. ‘It’s a very local story to show that everybody has to do their bit. And if children enjoy the show, then the message seeps in.’
Included in the ticket price is a CD, sent out to families before the show, so that everyone can sing along. ‘There’s always an element of participation and I think the CD helps that along,’ explains Penman. ‘If kids get to know the songs and characters before they go into the theatre, they’ll be more inclined to have an interest in it.’