HAIRY MACLARY AND FRIENDS Old-school literary adaptation ●●●●● SUPERHERO SNAIL BOY A zig-zagging emotional journey through comedy and tragedy ●●●●●

Hairy Maclary is the titular canine hero of some 12 books by New Zealand author Dame Lynley Dodd. In the book he is a small black hairy creature of indeterminate breed, whereas in the show he’s a 5’5” hairy costumed creature of indeterminate gender. He also has a host of canine friends and some feline foes, all of whom make an appearance during the hour.

The premise itself is a combination of stories from the books, interspersed with specially written songs and connecting scenes. If you are the kind of parent who tires of computer-animated TV programmes, then this is the show for you, as it takes a resolutely old-school approach.

It’s an exhilarating, all-singing, all jazz hands affair

with the animal characters played by adults in full costume, and all the human characters hamming it up mercilessly in support.

With plenty of ‘it’s behind you’ type audience interaction, and plinky-plonky piano accompaniment to the songs, Hairy Maclary and Friends is an energetic and raucous hour of unabashed family fun. (Gordon Eldrett) Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 26 Aug, 10.50am, £10–£11 (£8–£9).

Penned by Elizabeth Muncey for Vertical Line Theatre, Superhero Snail Boy is a multi-headed beast. After an upbeat start we are introduced to a cabal of troubled characters in a series of vignettes.

There’s the bullied boy, the neglected girl, the depressed father; the characters are drawn with incredible humanity, and watching them suffer is heartbreaking. They are juxtaposed with sketches in which the characters converse with a giant snail who just happens to be the embodiment of the night time (and also a snarky scene-stealer).

From melodrama to surreality by way of frenetic, bombastic scene changes, the result is emotional whiplash. Both the comedy and tragedy succeed individually but, rather than cohere, they remain distinct and jarring. Add to this some beautiful shadow puppetry and set design and it is clear that Vertical Line is talented in a number of areas. Sadly, this show does not hang together as a coherent entity. The message about grief and loss is buried too deeply for a child audience but instead provides an emotional workout for adults. (Suzanne Black) Bedlam Theatre, 225 9893, until 24 Aug (not 18), 10.30am, £9 (£7).

I KNEW A MAN CALLED LIVINGSTONE Historic Scot recalled from an African perspective ●●●●●

This year marks the bicentenary of the birth of David Livingstone - Scotsman, missionary doctor, abolitionist, capitalist and explorer of Africa. Toto Tales presents some of the notable episodes in Livingstone’s life from the perspective of his two servants Chuma and Susi.

Sisters Mara and Isla Menzies play a multitude of

characters, bringing them to life using costumes, percussion, song and, in the case of Livingstone, a comedy Scottish accent. Engaging storytellers, they switch between dramatic and comedic with minimal effort, their haughty princess a particular hit. No staid biography, this is a dynamic performance

and enthralling to watch. Amid the fights with lions and diplomatic slip-ups, the story keeps circling back to the ethics of slave-owning, and Livingstone’s advocation of commerce as the solution is presented. The show is pitched well at upper primary

and lower secondary ages and, side-stepping didacticism, opens up many talking points. (Suzanne Black) National Library of Scotland, 226 0000, until 21 Aug, 4pm, £10 (£7.50–£8).

MY BROTHER THE ROBOT Futuristic family fun ●●●●●

The technology in Tall Stories’ new show may seem far- fetched, but with robotic carers for the elderly already in development, it’s closer than you think. Little Bobby lives alone with her father in the year 2042,

eating fish and chips from a capsule, being home educated by a robot, and only leaving the house every couple of weeks. At first she seems thrilled with her lot, playing on her ‘net goggles’ for hours on end, with the 500 friends she has online. But the desire for real company, in the form of a baby

brother, leads Bobby’s inventor father to create R4, a robot that learns anything you teach it. Cue lots of fun playing catch and tig, followed by less welcome mess when Bobby forgets to teach R4 (or ‘Arthur’ as she re-names him) not to break things. There are some subtle, and not so subtle, messages in

this entertaining new show and all of them give you pause for thought. More than a few parents will recognise the line ‘I’ll play with you when I’ve finished working’, in response to Bobby’s plea for attention. And with iPads recently called ‘digital dummies’ by one education specialist, our fears about technology replacing human interaction seem well-founded. There’s also a nice message for older siblings in the audience, about helping younger ones to learn right from wrong.

But as you would expect from the team that brought us The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and many more Fringe hits, My Brother the Robot delivers on a number of levels, with strong characterisation, lively performances and catchy tunes all in strong supply. (Kelly Apter) Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 25 Aug (not 14), 2.55pm, £8–£10 (£7–£9).

15–26 Aug 2013 THE LIST FESTIVAL 59