Day 9: Innocence

'What is today's show?' Arlo asked as we tore along the Meadows yesterday morning, Mo still in her pyjamas. 'Well, if we manage to get there in time to get tickets, it is dance' I explained.

'Dance? A show about dancing is really boring' grumbled Arlo.

'Do you think so?' I replied, trying to contain a growing anxiety that a contemporary dance piece exploring the imagery of William Blake (for 0-4 year olds!) - Scottish Dance Theatre's Innocence - was my riskiest choice yet. But on we raced.

And I am so glad we made it (just about) in time. If only 'playroom performances' like this one were something that existed more widely outside of the fringe. Combining live music, poetry, dance and considerable imagination, I don't think there can be that many other opportunities for even the very wee-est audience members to crawl right up to (and over) performers (or get scooped up and flown round as part of a flock of parrots). Both Morven and Arlo were entranced, Mo apparently mesmerised by the light and movement and Arlo just really impressed. 'I think the dancing is beautiful', I whispered and he whispered back, 'I think they are REALLY strong'.

I could instructively have done some pre-show homework though as Arlo had a lot of questions and it turns out I have a pretty impoverished knowledge of William Blake ('When did he write it though?' 'What else did he paint?' 'But what does the tiger MEAN?').

When mum asked later what the show was about I struggled with that too. Happily, Arlo was very clear: 'It was about being and making things.' There is no way I could have put it better myself.


Day 8: Thank you very much Tall Stories

If my last post on here found both Arlo and I flagging a little, thank you enormously Tall Stories theatre company for reviving us both. Their excellent production of 'Emily Brown and the Thing', begins with two actors on stage brushing teeth and getting ready for bed. 'There's no way I'll be able to sleep with all these people watching,' one complains and the other instructs the audience they will have to look away. It was a good few minutes into the ensuing story before I realised that Arlo had put both hands over his eyes. After whispered reassurance that he was allowed to look again, the hands dropped and his wide eyes remained transfixed on stage throughout, his whole body craning from side to side so he didn't miss any of the action and his grasp on my thumb tightening whenever the protagonists - the fantastic, tousle-haired, titular Emily and her companion Stanley the rabbit - faced any sort of peril, relaxing when it looked like they would be okay.

Arlo's post-show verdict, 'It was fabarooney!' (an expression he's picked up off TV which I normally find very irritating but which was probably apposite here). 'It was scary, but not too scary. And it made me laugh.'

And I really loved it too. I've been trying, and largely failing, to adequately capture exactly what it is I value so much about good live theatre (or music, or comedy, or dance) - something sort of exhilarating and inspiring that comes form recognising the talent and thought and commitment of all those involved in a great performance combined with the sense of connection you can feel if there is resonance in what they are using that performance to say.

Anyway, whatever it is, I swear I felt it yesterday (and this in spite of the fact that the three actors were having to perform both to and over the full house of noisy, chatting, crying, not-always-entirely-paying-attention, children). Who knows whether Arlo felt anything approaching the same. He will, however, have felt me pull him a little closer to me on my knee and give him an, 'I am ever so happy we are here together', squeeze.

Day 7: All A Bit Tired

How long can you reasonably expect a three year old to stay still and seated while watching a performance? In fact, how many different performances can you reasonably expect to take a three year old to before his initial enthusiasm - or willingness to indulge his parent's enthusiasm - begins to wear off? After yesterday's festival going, I suspect I am a little closer to knowing the answer to both of those. Or maybe it is just me that is beginning to feel really, really tired.

Still, the day was not entirely without fun or excitement and began with another quintessential Edinburgh festival experience, waiting with fingers crossed in the returns queue for a sold out show. Yesterday was the first day of the book festival and we took a gamble on getting in to see Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo fame) and friends perform and sing stories on stage. We got lucky and, with minutes to spare, ran to join the enormous audience of children with better organised parents who were already sitting there.

I am not sure that Arlo entirely understood (or particularly cared) that the woman behind the microphone was responsible for so many of the words we read together at home. However, watching an illustrator, David Roberts, produce accompanying drawings was especially cool, not least because we both got to witness that even people who draw for a living don't always keep their colours inside the lines.

Arlo's official verdict, 'It was really good'. His noisy laughs, smiles and sing-a-longs would bear that out. But between the laughs were equally loud unstifled yawns, grumpy frowns and murmurs of disgruntlement when he didn't get invited on stage again and then failed to catch a blooming chocolate coin like the boys in the row in front.

The whole thing over-ran to something like an hour and ten minutes and that definitely seemed to be approaching the upper threshold for Arlo's amenability. And then I really pushed it, suggesting we wait in a crazy long queue to get a couple of books signed (a bittersweet victory on my part as now, whenever we read 'Tyrannosaurus Drip' or 'Jack and the Flumflum Tree' I shall probably remember Arlo's far from ideal lie-flat-on-the-grass protest and his understandable - but somewhat embarrassing - insistence, 'I just want to run around!'

Day 6: Audience participation (as superhero)

So, we hit the festival again after yesterday's hiatus in good spirits.

'What do you think has been the best show you've seen so far?' I asked Arlo en route to our venue.

'The one we see today will be' his encouragingly enthusiastic reply. 'What is it about?'

I had to answer that I didn't really know but it was called 'Zooom!' and I thought it might be about super heroes.

'Will there be dragons? I think there might be dragons. Because super heroes can rescue people from dragons can't they?'

I was fairly non-committal about the dragons but from the two-sentence blurb in the programme I thought it unlikely. This was a show about everyday 'heroes in waiting' and heroic acts of childhood kindness (like being friendly to the left out kid in the playground or not thumping your little sister even if she just destroyed your train track for the third time today). But the dragon idea had sounded cool.

'Tell me, have you ever done something really kind for someone else?' one of the fantastically energetic and enthusiastic young performers asked Arlo before we took our seats. Arlo looked initially a little confused by the question but then whispered to me, 'I cuddled someone' and so I volunteered that answer on his behalf.

I think the show - a wonderful series of big-hearted and inventive ways of encouraging kids to act positively in the world - deserved a much, much bigger audience but the relatively small crowd that we were part of turned out to be a bit of a blessing, for Arlo at least. During the show's climax, he was invited up on stage to see his own act of kindness - the cuddle - dramatized. I could feel him wavering next to me, but ultimately the adventurous and slightly precocious side of Arlo (and not the bashful, hesitant one) was able to take charge.

'So what did you think of that?' I asked after he and the performers had all taken their well deserved bows and we were back outside.

'Good. Good. But it wasn't a REAL super hero show. It wasn't scary. And there weren't any dragons'.

Day 4: Dancing

A bit of a different sort of day today: no theatre but ceilidh dancing for 3-7 year olds with Ceilidh Kids as part of the free fringe and considerably more exercise in an hour than in the last 4 days put together (not least in lugging a sleeping Morven and her pushchair up two and a half flights of stairs).

Definitely, definitely worth the exertion though. In spite of the heat, we managed to keep Arlo just about focused for the entire class which Bristol friends familiar with our Friday morning efforts will know is no mean feat. No sign of his signature, 'lie down in the middle of the floor mid-dance' move, which is just as well as he would have been quickly trampled by the many, many ceilidhing kids, mums, dads and grandparents with whom we shared the room. I was very grateful that we had our own granny Annie in tow. Full participation was expected (and in large part required) of accompanying adults and burling one child while carrying another proved an exertion too far for me.

I flipping love a ceilidh though and was really delighted that, for the most part, Arlo seemed really up for it too. Counting (to eight, repeatedly), marching, holding hands and spinning are all right up his street and I was fascinated to observe just how early the compulsion to interpret, 'turn your partner', as an invitation to try and break some kind of land speed record kicks in ('Faster mummy! Now let's go even faster!') It is a compulsion I remember very fondly from every school PE dance class and Christmas party (and perhaps from one or two rather more recent weddings too). And while this was the only festival outing so far which looked at points like it might end in tears (during one of the dances mid way, there were definitely a number of flailed arms, stomped feet and grimaces that the caller hadn't called), it also earned the fullest-faced smiles and certainly worked up the most sweat. The potential to exhaust an audience isn't something I'd have previously valued when deliberating over the Fringe programme but now that the rain has arrived and the parks are a little soggy it is definitely something I will look for again. Very strongly recommend.

Day 3: 'Fullgreat dinosaurs'

'Lots of people want to see the dinosaurs!' whispered Arlo sounding a little in awe as we entered the biggest and fullest theatre so far to see Dinosaur Zoo Live this morning . We chose seats purposefully near the end on an aisle in case it all got a bit scary but both remained seated, transfixed throughout. Arlo's unprompted verdict afterwards, 'That was "fullgreat"!' 'That means, full of great. Really, really, REALLY great' he went on to explain.

And I think he really, really, REALLY meant it if his enthusiastic audience participation is anything to go by.  I fear clapping and cheering might seem a little boring from here on after being invited to do so many loud and scary dinosaur 'ROAR's.

I think (hope) it might be largely due to my own lack of sleep (thanks to little sister Morven) but I also found something unexpectedly moving in watching a little girl who had been invited on stage give a potentially terrifying, life-sized Australovenator (new to me too) a very warm hug. Now, if I can just remember a quarter of all the names and facts we were given on Southern hemisphere dinosaurs I might be able to impress (or at least hold my own with) some of our other three year old friends.

Fullgreat indeed.


Day 2: A 'longer' and 'less silly' show than yesterday

Not able to get tickets for the dinosaurs but unwilling to entirely give up the reviewing idea quite yet, today Arlo and I went to see a show called Mildred and the Midnight City.

Given that he had a wee nap on my knee part way through and  a terribly serious face on from start to finish I thought I'd made a bit of an error, especially as both the plot (a sort of reverse global warming, faintly anti-capitalist story of a little girl who works in a heat-making factory and befriends a polar bear) and dialogue (of which there seemed to be quite a lot) were pitched way above his head.

But I fear he thinks he's got to like everything we see together or something. When he caught me looking at him rather than the stage, his solemn face turned to the far-from-convincing smile he has already learned to do for cameras. That made me a very strange sort of sad. Or maybe he really did think it was 'brilliant' as he suggested when I asked his opinion afterwards (though when I followed up asking what he thought the story was about he said he didn't know but was clear it featured a bear).

We talked about whether he thought his friends should see the show and he said he thought perhaps they should go to yesterday's one (Celeste's Circus) instead: 'That was the sillier one. Today's was longer.'

Arlo's Festival Day 1: Celeste's Circus (or 'The Seal and the Tent')

So, I had this notion that, hitting the festival together for the first time since Arlo properly mastered complete sentences, he and I might try our hand at being theatre critics.  I am not sure it is going to work out all that well. Today we saw our first show, Celeste's Circus at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

From Arlo: 'It was about tents. I saw a seal. The seal waved.' He also joined in clapping (though remarked that other people's clapping was a bit too loud) and waited at the end to blow a kiss to the aforementioned seal.

I thought it was all rather charming and smiled and laughed perhaps rather more than Arlo did. That said, I think it definitely counted as a thumbs up from us both.

We are off to see something involving dinosaurs tomorrow so I'm curious to see if the notion of reviewing is easier (for a 3 year old) by way of comparison.