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Features Published 28 August 2016

Mini Adventures

Two-and-a-half year old J and six-month old K offer pint-sized perspectives on their Edinburgh Fringe theatre adventure.
Duska Radosavljevic
'Hup', a musical show for babies at Edinburgh Festival. Credit: Colin Hattersley

‘Hup’, a musical show for babies at Edinburgh Festival. Credit: Colin Hattersley

‘No. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. It’s mine.’ These are my favourite words at the moment. My mum jokes it’s like having a teenager, but I’m only 2 and a half at the moment. I guess the stage they call ‘terrible twos’ goes on for a while.

I don’t like to talk much. It’s mostly because they (my Serbian mother and German father) insist on talking to me in different languages, and I like to take time to process things from a distance rather than jumping into (new) situations. That’s what they said in my nursery report. So, even though I’ve been to Edinburgh twice before and I’ve been to theatre many times before, I don’t remember much of it and was not in fact bursting with enthusiasm to jump into these situations mum – Mama (she wants me to call her Mama!) – designed for us again. A year is a very long time when you are 2 and a half, you know.

Anyway I was not too keen on doing Edinburgh this year but I also don’t like sharing or giving my things away much at the moment. For the last two years I’ve had this project writing about baby theatre in Edinburgh for Exeunt (see here for 2014 and here for 2015). And this year, I have a little baby sister, and I didn’t like her stealing my job, so I allowed her to write only 140-character statements about her Edinburgh experience. And post them on Twitter. She got a hang of it pretty quickly. Here are some examples:

We stayed in a different apartment this year but it was again pretty near the Meadows. I suppose all roads in Edinburgh during the festival lead across the Meadows. Because it was on the ground floor, to make it easier with the pram, Mama said ‘I hope we don’t have mice’, and Papa laughed ‘How often did you see a mouse in an Edinburgh flat!?’, and Mama said ‘Twice actually’. ‘There are no mice’, Papa said reassuringly.

On our first day we saw a show called Hup. What I liked best about it was that it was in a building that had lots of space to run and lift-buttons to press. I also had my own ticket to show to the ladies on the door. What I didn’t like about it was that I had to take my shoes off – I really don’t like dressing and undressing at the moment. I also didn’t like that I had to sit on the floor with all the others. But then again this show is for babies and not for 2-and-a-half year olds as they helpfully told Mama when she was booking the tickets. Satanina (as I call my sister) however loved it:

(particularly the seating arrangement):

Hup was a show with three musicians and one dancer dressed in black and white – I thought it was a cat but mama later told me it was a racoon (I don’t know that animal, but I know fox, cause we see one every day on our way to nursery). Hup really seemed to know what babies liked, so they brought out all sorts of things to delight them, including their own black glasses with fluffy bits on. I liked it best when they played hide and seek, and the fact that one of them refused to get dressed. After I got over not wanting to be there, I really liked the music too.

Then Mama had to run off and we went to get lunch. Mama always runs off a lot in Edinburgh, I really don’t like that, and neither do Satanina and Papa. Our second day started off pretty stressful, as Baby K put it:

We went all the way down to the Botanic Gardens – in pouring rain – to see a show about a puppy, called Head in the Clouds. It was really, really far to walk, but we got the recommendation from Dr Headshot (@bfletcherwatson), who has a phd in baby theatre. And actually he was right. Once again, lots of space in the building to run, once again lifts with buttons to press. It was a bit too hot in the little room the show was in, and once again I really didn’t want to go in (even though they didn’t ask for my shoes this time) but I think I was afraid I might fall asleep (which is another thing I don’t like). Every time I am afraid I might fall asleep I just get a bit ‘hyper’ (as they say), to keep awake. I got particularly excited when I saw the sheep!

The sheep were actually three balloons which floated up in the air, and I really, really wanted to grab hold of them. The man who was telling the story was really friendly with me – he gave me a sheep sticker in exchange for my ticket on the way in – so I thought I might use his friendliness to get on stage with him, but Mama and Papa didn’t like this idea at all. I think they were a bit fed up with me afterwards and discussed my behaviour for a long time, so I thought it would make things better if I said something, and I said ‘the sheeps were amazing’. And they cheered up about that and then ooohed and aaahed for a while. I was playing with the sheep stickers until I lost them the day after, and I think Satanina liked the show too, especially the shiny clouds they let her play with in the end. I wished they’d given me a balloon as well, but then we went past a place called Summerhall the next day and some people from Taiwan who are doing a show there gave me their balloon instead. I loved that, and even though I didn’t get a chance to go and see their show, they made me really happy.

On the third day we went to a slightly different sort of performance. Mama says that’s what Fringe is all about – trying out unfamiliar things. So we went to a show called Opera Mouse. I think she picked this show because she saw that I like Melody on Cbeebies, a blind girl who listens to classical music and imagines things. This was a show in which one lady called Melanie tells a story about a mouse called Tilly who likes to sing. I liked it because I had my own seat, and Melanie went to hide behind the curtain at first (which I thought was great fun!). Then she was really chatty with the audience but didn’t push me too much to talk back to her. And finally she made a big fuss about my favourite song – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and got us all to sing it in different ways, while jumping and ice skating and pretending to be cold. And this lady sang in such a way I had to open my eyes really wide as I couldn’t quite believe it, and Satanina was smiling a lot too and watching and listening for all 40 minutes even though this show was not really for babies but more for two-and-a-half-year-olds and above.

I think Melanie wanted to teach us things with this show. She kept saying ‘When you see a mouse don’t go eeeee, because the mouse might be a really good singer’. I don’t think my Mama is convinced about that, but I decided I would listen out for them to see if they really sing like Melanie. The next morning when I woke up in our Edinburgh flat, I thought I heard something and I went ‘Look, Mama, a mouse!’, and it wasn’t a mouse, but Mama didn’t like that at all. She said she would prefer it if I’d restrict my fascination to sheep.

So we had an all right time in Edinburgh after all. But it was difficult to get us all to enjoy the same things at the same time. I am not sure I can continue with my Edinburgh reports like this. I think Mama is having second thoughts about it too. We didn’t get to see the baby performing at the Fringe (couldn’t squeeze it into the schedule ether, though Satanina was really curious) but we heard a lot about it. I also wanted to know whether Mama thinks it is ethical that she has us ‘writing’ about our experiences like this? Isn’t she worried that when we grow up we might not like her using our identities like this? And she thought about if for a long time. And then she said ‘It’s what you get for refusing to talk and for not being out of the separation stage yet.’ And I thought ‘But I am out of the separation stage!’. And she carried on ‘If I have to carry you and feed you and rock you to sleep every night ever since you were born meaning that I never get to see any night-time theatre anymore, if you insist on calling my things and my body and my personal space “mine”, if you keep clambering on me every time I sit down to have a meal or just check my phone, then you can also channel a little bit of me in return. Just for fun.’ So there you have it, boys and girls.

Forget about talking, I’d better actually learn to write myself pretty soon. At least before baby K gets there.

 

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Duska Radosavljevic

Duska Radosavljevic is a dramaturg, teacher and scholar. She is the author of Theatre-Making: Interplay Between Text and Performance in the 21st Century (2013) and editor of The Contemporary Ensemble: Interviews with Theatre-Makers (2013). Duska has also contributed to The Stage Newspaper since 1998 as well as a number of academic and online publications in English and in Serbian.

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