JOYCE MCMILLAN on HARE & TORTOISE at North Edinburgh Arts Centre, for The Scotsman 20.12.14. _________________________________________________________
3 stars ***
THE HARE IS SPEEDY, the tortoise is slow, the audience is divided into two camps, and the race begins. Licketyspit’s show Hare And Tortoise, now rewritten for Christmas and playing until today at North Edinburgh Arts, has one of the best opening sequences of any children’s show around, not least because of its gorgeous Licketyspit inroductory explanation that theatre is just a form of storytelling where you get to see the story in action, and that there’s about to be some action worth watching.
As a piece of theatre, Hare & Tortoise still sports many of the same assets and flaws it had on its first outing, five years ago. The central story and the tension between the two characters remains strong, the design still fails to show the route of the race in a way that would make it easy to follow the course of the actio, and to enjoy the script’s many interruptions, and the show is still perhaps five minutes too long, with some pretty dire comedy interludes involving old ladies.
The joy of Licketyspit, though, lies not only in the shows themselves, but in the tremendous work they do around their performances, vividly illustrated at North Edinburgh Arts in a terrific exhibition of responses to the story by children from three Edinburgh primary schools. The Hare And The Tortoise is one of the oldest stories known to humankind; yet as the children’s artwork shows, once we begin to tease out what it has to say about human character and achievement, there’s no end to its fascination, or to the vivid images it suggests to our minds.