By pairing Beatrix Potter’s beloved stories with music, this show aims to bring something new to these sweet tales of mild adventuring. "Who here knows Peter Rabbit?" asks a rather tired-sounding producer at the beginning of the show; the muted reaction of the audience suggests that perhaps they are a little tired, too, but when the musicians are introduced on stage and narrator/soprano Michelle Todd appears, things pick up considerably.
An unusual chamber ensemble of violin, cello, guitar, flute, clarinet and percussion play a delightful score by composer Stephen McNeff, which perfectly complements these traditional but playful tales. It’s refreshing to hear an ensemble of this size and quality performing in a Fringe kids' show, and the producers should be applauded for allowing children to experience real instruments up close. There is clearly a gentle educational mission here, and a mid-show demonstration of each instrument encourages kids to listen out for their unique qualities in the next section, which is very effective.
Michelle Todd is an excellent storyteller, never letting her lovely soprano voice get in the way of the storytelling; so although much of the story is sung, it is always clear and comprehensible. Some light use of props is a nice touch, but it’s a shame that the presentation of this show doesn’t have the same imagination which went into the score; it’s a little static, and it feels as though something is missing.
Still, the fact that despite this, both children and adults remain enchanted throughout is testament to the skill of the performers. This show may lack a little flair, but it is gentle, sweet and nostalgic, just like the stories that it’s based on.