If Tony Reekie was a less responsible programmer, the 2004 Children’s International Theatre Festival would be a more singular occasion. ‘I’m approaching 40 that’s midlife crisis time,’ he laughs. ‘I like things that make

me feel sad and emotional. You can’t do a programme full of that kind of work.’

Much as he is partial to a bit of ‘northern European angst’, he is more concerned with creating a balance. His ninth programme features puppets, masks, drama and dance. He has shows for the under-fives and the over-12$. They come from Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada, and embrace everything from fairytales to family tragedy.

To be fair, Reekie’s taste isn’t as narrow as he makes out. He likes stuff that’s

‘just daft’ as well. And they don’t come much more silly than Lords of the Railway, a two-man show from Germany about model railway enthusiasts, performed around an operating train set. ‘lt’s just two very anal men being daft,’ says Reekie. ‘But there’s a wee story at the heart of it that takes the

audience along.’

As well as the young audience, it’s the dads who’ll want to see this one. ‘lt’s for all the 40-year-old men in the audience,’ he says. ‘At the end of the performances when the kids always run onto the stage to play with the set, what happens is you just get lots of men hovering about.’

Until Wed 2 Jun, Times vary. £4 (£3.50). Various Theatres (Edinburgh), 225 8050.

Lords of the Railway l-‘ri 2s & Sat 2‘) Ma}. l-'ri 3pm: Sat ll)._i()ain & 1.45pm. £4. 'l‘ra\ crxc 'l'bcatrc. ('anibridgc Strcct. 22S l4()4. :\gc\ ()+. (icrmany‘x 'l'catcr llandgcmcngc pl'L‘\L‘lll\ iilL‘ last-paccd litiL‘ ()l~ ltlUdL‘i railua) cnthuxiastx l'\\ c and Dirk. Spend a Penny Hi 23 & Sat 2‘) Ma}. 3pm (Sat Inat l2.3()pm). £4 (£3): l'Utlt' tickctx l‘m‘ E l 3 ([9). North lidinburgb .'\rt\ ('cntrc. l5a l’cnm'ucll (’ourt. 315 2151. :\gc\ .1 I). 'l‘hc '

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The Selfish Giant l-‘ri 28 & Sat 3‘) Ma}. liri 3pm: Sat ll).3()am & lpm. £4. (iaragc 'l‘hcatrc. (irindlay Strcct (’ourt. (irindla_\ Strcct l.anc. 32‘) 7941. .'\gcs 3+ ()SL‘ill' \Vildc’x talc of how a lilllc bo}\ l'I'icndxhip inspircs thc grumpy old giant to opcn thc gitlcx l0 hix gill'dctt. thc \L‘itSUlh and his hcart. Adapch IIxing puppclx. music and stor)tclling l‘rom l’olka 'iiilL'illl'L'.

Frog liri 28 .\la_\. 5pm. £4. Ro}al l._\ccum 'l‘hcatrc. (irindla) Strch 248 4848. .'\gc.\ 4+. Award-u inning Dutch thcalrc company 'l‘hcatcr 'l‘crra pcrl‘ormx a talc ol litllc .\la\. \Vho'x alraid of thc unkno“ n. Baxcd on thc popular l-‘mg picturc bookx b_\ .\la\ \t‘llhtljix.

King A l‘ri 28 Sun it) Ma}. l‘ri/Sat 7pm: Sat/Sun 2pm. £4. 'l‘raxcrxc 'l‘hcatrc. ('ambridgc Strcct. 328 I404. Agcx 8+. Dutch thcalrc compan} llct l.aagland prcxcntx a p|a_\ rootcd in Ihc idcaix ol' King Arthur and hix Kllig'ilh ol thc Round 'l‘ablc “llil lighting. \inging and dancing.

Cloudland Sat 2‘) Ma}. 3.30pm & 5pm. £4. Ro}a| I.) ccum 'l'hcatrc.

Among the crazier moments elsewhere is A Sonatina, which you’d recognise as Little Red Riding Hood except the key characters are played by an egg, a potato and a potato masher. ‘lt’s just nuts,’ says Reekie. ‘You enter their world and if you give yourself up to it, you’re in for a fabulous


Equally unexpected is The Ballad of Marian and Rob, a Danish version of Robin Hood performed by tango dancers. ‘The first time I saw it, I didn’t get it,’ he says. ‘The second time, I thought it was one of the best pieces of

theatre I’d ever seen.’

From Scotland, Shona Reppe’s Spend a Penny, Visible Fictions’ Emily’s House and Catherine Wheels’ Cyrano have already been picking up enthusiastic reviews, while Annie Wood, who made her name with Visible Fictions, is back with The Selfish Giant from London’s Polka Theatre.

Other highlights include If You Go Down to the Woods, the first show for young audiences by Montreal’s contemporary dance company Cas Public, and a stunning masked version of Beauty and the Beast. ‘l was sold right at the beginning when Beauty comes on in a huge crinoline dress,’ says Reekie. ‘She starts to sink into it and then it becomes a cage. You’re in the hands of people who know what they’re doing.’ (Mark Fisher)

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