Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

We Come From Far,Far Away, Lauriston Hall/

Expedition Peter Pan, Traverse Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

Real people, and real stories, have always interested and inspired NIE (Norway/England). We Come From Far, Far Away (for ages 10 - 15 years) sees the company sourcing material from teenage asylum seekers then - with twists of wily humour, some atmospheric live music and the honest details of brutal experiences - conjuring up the risk-laden, cross-continents, journey of two lads from Aleppo who seek refuge in Oslo. Newsreel footage regularly delivers graphic images of similarly displaced children but inside NIE’s compact yurt, the subtly unhistrionic feel of this piece brings us within touching distance of terrors and sorrows that are unfolding a world away. Two boys, Abdullah and Omar, leave Aleppo together: only one, Abdullah, arrives in Oslo. Omar, however, is always on-stage. Despite drowning, he lives on In Abdullah’s heart and mind... Unconditional friendship, like courage and hope, accompanies every step of this powerfully affecting journey - one still being made by thousands today.

Another kind of journey befalls the five, business-suited adults in Expedition Peter Pan (by Het Laagland, Netherlands). As an unseen power visits (often embarrassing) practical jokes on them, all five shed inhibitions, abandon ‘grown-up’ responsibilities - and succumb, instead to the forgotten joys of child’s play. A young audience (7- 12 years) simply cracked up at seeing adults going wild’n’wacky - being pilots and pirates, super-heroes and TV characters - but as the office furniture becomes the fantasy landscape of Neverland, there’s a wise side to the hilarious mayhem. A kind of warning to older onlookers, really: don’t outgrow your inner child. Hold onto the energies of your dreams and - like these exuberant, versatile parformers - keep believing, like the pop song says, you can fly. This whole festival has been flying high, fielding theatre pieces full of fun, imagination and insights for all ages - here’s to EICF 2019