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Edmund the Learned Pig (Manchester)

Edmund the Learned Pig at the Royal Exchange is "Surprising, ambitious and very entertaining", says Sara Cocker

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Edmund the Learned Pig
© Royal Exchange Theatre

Like the eccentric characters within it, Edmund the Learned Pig is a show that revels in glorious non-conformity. Created by Fittings Multimedia Arts and The Krazy Kat Theatre Company, with collaboration from young persons' theatre writer Mike Kenney and musician Martyn Jacques of The Tiger Lillies, this is a feast of a family show.

While telling the dark tale of a failing circus whose fortunes change when they are joined by Edmund, an intelligent, talented, talking pig, this is no predictable rags to riches story. There is innovation in the presentation of the piece. BSL is fully and meaningfully integrated, puppetry, live music and acrobatics fuse seamlessly, and a delighted young audience are entertained with interactive games by cast members during the interval.

Designed for a young audience, the performances are sharp and the characters readable. The cast are an interesting and likeable ensemble. Garry Robson as ‘the boss' is a brilliant ring master, part master of ceremonies, part Del-boy, as he struggles to find a balance between keeping everyone happy and everyone fed.

Anthony Cairns does an impressive job of bringing Edmund to life, becoming invisible as the puppeteer whilst always onstage. A testament to the character and animation that he brings to the title role.

The real joy of Edmund the Learned Pig is that it's a show unbound by conventional expectations. The creative team have got the measure of making a show for children and here, imagination and possibility are king.

There's a relish and a faith in the acceptance of young minds; where adults in the audience were raising eyebrows (cross-species romantic sparks, otherworldly falsetto and a trippy vision of pig heaven), children were agog, laughing and clapping then breathless and on the edge of their seats.

From Chris de Wilde's design to Gordon Dougall's direction, Edmund the Learned Pig is surprising, ambitious and very entertaining.

- Sara Cocker