The Just So Stories – Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011

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Broadway Baby

The wizard said play! And it was so

After my initial panic at being stuck in a room where the mean age of the audience was about four, I began to relax to the dulcet tones of the performing quartet. They had a strength of character in their storytelling which resonated throughout the iglu-shaped blow-up tent, and entranced their viewers, young and old alike.

The Just So Stories are a compilation of tales of how the world began, and how everything in the world came to be as it is now. With vague references to the creation stories and characters of the Bible these extraordinary stories entice children with their explanations for an animal’s existence in the form that it is, a few examples being why crabs have claws, or why the elephant has a long trunk. Like most performing arts, it is in the telling of the stories that we experience the real quality of the production.

I was greatly impressed by the professionalism demonstrated. These four women speak perfectly in sync for the rhymes, and sing exquisite harmonies during the scene changes.

The ingenuity they present in their use of their simple props and costumes captivates the entire room. Most importantly they know exactly how to interact with their young audience and do not flinch from crawling in amongst them for the benefit of the story. Each tale has a learning curve to it with understandings of right and wrong cleverly woven into the setting, allowing young minds to go away with more than just a good story in their head.

The Just So Stories is an example of children’s Fringe theatre as it should be: simple, spontaneous and spellbinding.


From the minute that you walk into the venue for this show, you are immediately aware that this is a kids show that takes their audience very seriously, the kids are sat at the front on scattered beans bags with soft toys and are quickly settled into their own space whilst the grown ups sit a bit further back on their own stools.

These Rudyard Kipling tales are told in a brilliantly simple, yet effective manner and there isn’t a peep from the children whilst they are a immersed into the storytelling, the cast are engaging and a terrific focal point for the audience, whilst the use of the props is creative and highly effective.

This is a kids show that has been handled excellently and if todays children are the next generation of Festival goers, then there have been some magical memories created in this show, the atmosphere is perfect, and if possible I would recommend anyone with a family to go along and catch this show, is by far one of my 5 year old daughters favourites.

Three Weeks

The secret to producing something for children – which animation studios Pixar discovered a long time ago – is that it has to also appeal to the adults, something that the cast of this delightful production know all too well.

The kids get comfy bean bags and cuddly animals by the front, which is a lovely touch to bring them into the world of storytelling. We hear, amongst others, the tale of how the elephant got its trunk, and how the camel got its hump, with amusing props and fun songs that bring the stories to life in a childlike fashion that appeals as much to the nostalgic adults as to the enthralled kids.

A real treat for young and old alike.

The Stage

Big in scope and archaic in tone though they are, Kipling’s Just So Stories remain essential bedtime reading. In bringing them to the stage, Red Table Theatre uses everyday household objects as props and costume accessories – a touch which takes them out of the realm of pure imagination into the kind of world that children create for themselves by using.

So the Elephant Child’s stump of a trunk is a slinky which, when caught by the crocodile – an extended hat – expands just as it should. Staging is created with boxes and swathes of cloth, while the four actresses speak Kipling’s words with a nicely mesmerising quality.

The creation riff of The Crab that Played with the Sea is a good opener. It provides an instant reference point for the over-fours (a cut-off age worth observing) in the Man’s Child, who is the observant and clever one in the story. Parents dutifully perched behind the ‘snuggle pit’ will be gratified that it clearly stamps out the idea that this is fantasy, not reality.

How the Camel got his Hump, How the Whale got his Throat and the Elephant’s Child complete the quartet of stories. Performing original songs between each one keeps the audience focused in a production that is happy not to compromise in terms of language.

Primary Times

The ‘Just So Stories’ are told by four lovely ladies through the mediums of theatre, song and rhyme. The venue is the Green at the Pleasance Courtyard which is an ideal setting for this gentle show where kids can recline on bean bags and everyone can sit back and let Kipling’s wonderful words wash over them.

The tales are beautifully told using everyday objects as props. The innovative use of pots and pans as the inside of a whale’s stomach was particularly memorable. My children were equally impressed with the crab made out of bright red umbrellas. I took an 8 year old and a 5 year old and was a little worried that it might be a bit young for them, but they loved it. These stories appeal to all ages and were brought to life in an enchanting and vibrant way by the cast. I was not familiar with the stories but this show has inspired me to seek them out.

Kate (8 years) said ‘I loved it … especially the story about the crab playing with the sea’ and Ben (5 years) said ‘It was amazing. The crocodile was great … but it wasn’t scary!’.

At the end the cast joined the kids on the bean bags and let them try on the elephants trunks. They are a lovely group of ladies who are extremely talented storytellers.

The List

Colourful and engaging adaptation of Kipling’s well known tales

There’s no cosier venue at the Pleasance Courtyard than The Green, the huge inflated igloo that’s home to many of its shows for children this year.

In The Just So Stories, kids, their parents and a few solitary grown-ups are invited to dive into the Snuggle Pit, an enticing fluffy mass of colourful floor cushions and cuddly toys. It’s the perfect vantage point for Red Table Theatre’s engaging adaptation of four tales from Rudyard Kipling’s much-loved collection of stories.

Using old-fashioned suitcases, vibrant parasols and mesmerising swathes of fabric, the agile performers create a rich and varied landscape that’s a delight to behold. In addition to skilful acting, there’s some beautifully melodic singing that rounds off the end of each tale. All of these elements work together with clever staging to create a captivating show that sustains its one-hour length.

But the antiquated language through which the stories are told don’t grab everyone’s attention, and some young minds start to wander after the first tale. The company suggests the show is suitable for ages four and up but six might be a better baseline, though even the youngest audience members are still charmed by the kaleidoscope of images the performers create.

Shappi Khorsandi in The Daily Telegraph

My boy is only here for a short time so making the most of all the kids shows. The Just So Stories were terrific yesterday. My boy was captivated. His mother’s frequent use of cbeebies as an electronic babysitter does not seem to have shortened his attention span. One less thing to worry/feel guilty about.

Mitch Benn on Twitter

If you’re at #EdFringe with small kids, DO see Just So Stories at The Pleasance, 12.30. Astrid (3) sat enraptured-no higher praise possible.

Shappi Khorsandi on Twitter

just saw the wonderful The Just So Stories. Totally captivating, thoroughly recommend for kids. At pleasance court yard

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