Last week I did something I’ve looked forward to doing since I first found out I was pregnant. We took both the kids to the Fringe! I had been before I had kids and Aiden had been taken to see one bubble show by his Nana when he was two years old but we hadn’t taken the kids ourselves or done a proper full Fringe experience until this year. It had seemed quite daunting to take a four and two year old to an intensely busy city centre during the biggest arts festival in the world but it turned out wonderful and I can’t  recommend it more highly to other families. Here is how we had our stress free one day at the Fringe with the family.

The most important thing I would say is plan! Plan, plan and then plan some more. The Fringe has both paper programmes and an online website that lists detailed information about all the shows so make good use of these resources. We used the website because you could select the day you were going, the category (childrens) and even the age range. There are further filters you can apply to your search such as the price range, (you can select free shows or shows taking part in 2 for 1 ticket offers) and also the time of day.

Once we had read reviews / watched some YouTube clips of the shows we thought both the kids and ourselves would enjoy, we took to the map to find out where the venues for each show where and to calculate how long it would take us to get from one to another. We initially wanted to cram four or five shows in to the one day, but with children you always have to remember to add plenty of time. Time between shows to find a toilet and also time for the another hugely important part of the Fringe for us; street food snack breaks. We didn’t want to be stressed running around Edinburgh getting worked up so in the end we decided we would see three shows. We picked two ticketed shows at the start of the day and then a free one in the afternoon if we were still going! Heres how we enjoyed them.

The Bear – Pins and Needles Productions @Pleasance Beyond 12pm (1 hour)

My kids (and us grown ups!) loved both the ticketed shows we saw but The Bear was voted the firm family favourite. I think the fact that it packs so much in and to such a high standard of theatre is what really makes it special. The plot of a girl being visited by a bear that no-one else can see but that causes plenty of mischief, is simple enough but the execution of that story telling is exquisite in this production. The play wraps itself around you, engulfing you like the giant polar bear puppet engulfs the little girl as they snuggle down to sleep. There are few things that can keep both a four and a rather hyper two year old sitting still for a whole hour but as it turns out, world class theatre and a huge polar bear are one of those things.

The set was extremely clever in its versatility to switch rooms with just a few simple prop changes and the kids reviled in seeing a fridge flipped upside down right in front of us and a bath open wide. Likewise, the sense of witnessing something truly magical was created by an entrancing score and a whole range of spectacular puppets. You have never seen eyes go as wide as my kid’s eyes did when the bear first climbs in through the window! If you are looking for a show to totally transport you out of your seats and entertain both the kids and adults in equal measure then The Bear is a must.

Better Together – Acá Theatre @Pleasance Above 10:30am (55 mins)

The first show we saw at the Fringe set the standard exceptionally high with this both whimsical and poignant acrobatic clown show from Acá Theatre. Better Together tells a simple story of three clowns waiting for and continually missing the bus. However, there is so much more going on with this performance than a simple repeated slapstick story. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the slapstick, the slapstick was my four year olds favourite bit. He howled with laughter as the clowns spun round and knocked each other down. For me however,it was how slick the whole piece was and how cleverly the plot built to bring home it’s message that some times technology causes more problems than it is worth and a bit of face time in person means we are all better together.

As a big fan of traditional clowns, I was very pleased to see a lot of the classic clowning forms utilised in this show. What makes Better Together better that a lot of other clown acts I have seen though is that it didn’t feel stitched together like a circus filler, but rather it played out as a piece of theatre that just so happened to be performed by three clowns. There was no trick, applause, trick formula. Instead the audience got to really get to know the individual characters of each clown and became invested in their story. This made the slapstick more amusing and meant that again, both my children sat happily for the entire show. We all have our own favourite clown, and both my children are refusing to take the Better Together pins they got off, which leads me to conclude that it was a highly successful show and I would recommend it for a good old chuckle.

Huggers – @The Free Sisters 2pm (1 hour)

We decided to give a free show a go too and had heard good things about a show called Huggers. The venue was a lot busier than the Pleasance were we had been for the first two shows (and enjoyed a seriously yummy mac cheese toastie!) and I’ll admit, by this point in the day (and hour past normal nap time), I wasn’t holding out much hope. What we did find though was effectively a stand-up variety show for kids. It was too old for Faye who didn’t want to sit still any more but Aiden at four years old was interested and loved actually observing what the bigger kids round 8 and 9 years were making of the jokes. It is a great idea and we would certainly take the kids when they are a bit older.

There you have it. One family day trip to the Fringe with no tears and plenty of memories made!

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