Who needs rules anyway? Certainly not Rhubard and Custard, the irrespressible hosts of Calvinball, Ipdip Theatre's glorious show at the Royal Botanic Garden. And certainly not this audience of excited zero to five-year-olds, seated on blue tarpaulins in the dappled light under the trees.
Inspired by the game played by cartoon duo Calvin and Harris, in which you make up the rules as you go along, the show is essentially an opportunity to lark about in the sunshine (or otherwise, as the case may be – this is Scotland after all). This deceptively simple concept gives the three-strong cast the flexibility to be responsive to the particular needs of each audience, ensuring that Calvinball appeals to a broad range of ages and interests. Games with props, songs and dances, hide and seek – even deciding on the physical boundaries of the game is an excuse for fun. There's novelty here, in the shape of original songs and plot devices, but enough familiar elements to ensure the experience is never overwhelming for even the youngest audience members.
There's too much faff getting started – Ipdip do their best to make checking tickets and giving out wristbands a cheery process, but that extra five-10 minutes before it all actually begins feels like an age for impatient under-fives. Once we get going though, the pace is fast without feeling rushed. If a particular game isn't to your taste, don't worry; there will be another one along in a minute. The three-strong cast keep a firm grip on proceedings—impressive given that there's no additional stage managerial support here—while still managing to engage directly with individual children and their parents. This game may have no rules, but it's got a whole lot of winners.