By D Cannon
When it comes to providing a thrill-filled theatre experience for young audiences, Spotlites really have it nailed. ‘Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb’ at Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall is a masterclass in interactive kids’ theatre, chock-full of whip-cracking, tomb-raiding, code-breaking fun.
It’s clear from the moment you enter the theatre that kids are the VIPs in this production. As well as the plentiful opportunities for younger audience members to get on-stage and involve themselves first -hand in the adventure, there’s an attentiveness to kids’ needs – and wants – throughout. There are puzzles in the programme, ice-creams in the interval, and a generally relaxed atmosphere that allows parents to slip out for toilet-trips mid-show without any sense of awkwardness. Both Front of House staff and actors have a real rapport with the children they speak to. And at one hour forty-five minutes, this is surely one of the best value for money theatre tickets on offer at the Fringe.
The plot concerns an Indiana Jones style archaeologist, complete with whip, and his attempt to reunite an ancient Egyptian pharaoh with his missing heart. This story really comes second to the action though, which comes thick and fast with collapsing pyramids, gun-fights and chases down the Nile and across deserts. The three actors (James Cowden, Tanya Bridgeman, and Kieron Riddell) are all excellent, maintaining the pace with unfailing energy and commitment, as they jump back and forward between multiple roles.
There’s clever use of sound and light (actually producing gasps from the children at times) and the filmic music reinforces the sense that the kids are in the middle of their own adventure movie. It sometimes feels loud, but this didn’t appear to trouble any of the children in the audience. The set is simple, but versatile, and the cast use it to create convincing tombs, tunnels, and boats.
And the best proof that this production deserves its five stars? The kids in the audience absolutely loved it. Every invitation to ‘help’ provoked a sea of hands to rise, and I can only imagine washing lines across Edinburgh are currently being purloined as home-made whips.
‘Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb’ is aimed at children aged 5-12, but Spotlites also have shows running for 2-5 year olds during the Fringe, together with children’s drama workshops.