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Review: I'll Take You To Mrs Cole! (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

Complicité returns to the Fringe with Polka Theatre and this wild kids' show

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I'll Take You To Mrs Cole!
© Ali Wright

Children's shows in Edinburgh tend to be top-notch and the family-friendly elements of the Fringe get better and better each year. Witness I'll Take You to Mrs Cole!, a new show from Complicité and Polka Theatre, which combines a skankilicious soundtrack, a teeny bit of politics and a lot of fun.

Politics and skanking in a kids show? I hear you exclaim. You heard it right. Catherine Alexander's adaptation of Nigel Gray and Michael Foreman's original book doesn't get bogged down in the politics of the rocksteady beat and the context of its emergence in this country, but it's there, bubbling away in the background. We're in 1981, where everything is "black and white" – simpler, perhaps, but also a reference to both the sounds of two-tone and the racial politics of the day.

Here Ashley lives with her mum, who works as a nurse, and who is getting more and more tired of asking Ashley to do the housework in between her stints at school. But Ashley is a consummate daydreamer and each time she's left with a list of chores to do, Ashley starts to play. Poor mum returns to a house that's in total disarray which prompts her recurring threat: "Do that again and I'll take you to Mrs Cole's!". Mrs Cole's is a "dirty house" that's down the road which is filled with lots of grubby kids. But when Ashley discovers what Mrs Cole's house is really like for herself, everyone's worlds are turned a little upside down.

The piece is filled with a few excellent rocksteady and reggae-infused songs – a refreshing alternative to any sickly sweet kids tunes you might be used to – and lots of dancing. The cast of three deliver the prose and rhythm of the text well and there's much fun in what we see onstage. Amber Cooper-Davies' animations, projected onto Jemima Robinson's kitchen designs (which double as a make-shift music club), also give a lovely layering to proceedings. There's a lot for both the little ones and the big ones to enjoy here.

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