James Beagon’s Aulos Productions returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with a completely new style of play continuing to stretch and push the company’s limits. Following the story of Spot and her goblin friends as they race to save Gobland this choose-your-own-adventure play won the Best Children’s Show at this year’s Fringe.
Aimed at children the company suggests audience members of age 7+ which was a smart call given that any younger and there is no doubt their attention would have wandered. However, even those of the age suggested struggled with some of the more complex moral points and the length of the piece. The format of the choose-your-own-adventure was a charming way to involve the audience members in the play and was played out using a real game programme designed specifically for the show.
However, it is difficult to know how much the choices of the player really altered the plot of the show – instead they seemed merely to reorder the sequences of events so the audience had a little more control over the direction of the journey although the end point remained the same. The choice the audience did influence was whether the characters took part in fight sequences or instead tried to charm and negotiate their way out of tricky situations. The fight sequences that did take place were incredibly well choreographed by Rachel Bussom and executed professionally by the cast and it was a shame to not see more. The negotiation scenes, which proved a favourite with the peaceful children present at the show I saw, were entertaining but less polished – relying on shout outs from the audience that extended the scene too long so the overall effect came across as an unedited clumsy scene. Camilla Makhmudova as Spot was a natural on stage and often encouraged some great responses from the children though occasionally her character could have been provided with easier questions to put to the audience. The play often fell foul of over complicating the choices for the players which led to some awkward silences or some difficult suggestions coming from the children’s lack of understanding and investment.
The projection of the game interface with it’s charming drawings depicting scenes from the story of ‘Gobland for the Goblins’ married well with the equally pleasing costumes that evoked the essence of the fairytale monsters easily and smartly. Beagon’s productions have an enchanting homemade quality about them that remind the audience that these are all original productions written and directed by himself and the costumes and sketches conveyed this originality.
The cast itself committed well to the story and were convincing portrayals of their respective characters. Jenny Quinn as Spark played the affable sidekick and mentor of Spot to a T leading to her becoming the favourite of the audience quickly. The three original villians, Felion Emperor, Mole Queen and Gnome Supreme, were interesting characters to have been created as villains but perhaps a little difficult for the audience to immediately understand – they weren’t the most recognizable monsters that children of that age might associate as evil – things like giants, witches and ogres are more suitable for that age.
John Spilsbury was a commanding Announcer who lent the show an authority that was necessary when working with children of that age. Although, occasionally, perhaps too convoluted in his moral warnings to be heeded by the younger members he was the most mature and developed character for the parents in the audience.
Gobland for the Goblins is designed with children in mind but there was a notable drop in the enthusiasm of responses from the audience as we reached the climax of the production and that I think summarized the mood as the play came to an end; it had been an enjoyable romp through Gobland but it had become a little too long-winded and a little too complicated for its ending to leave us wanting more.