The sprawl of the Edinburgh festival can be exciting, varied and throw up some gems for families. But if you have little children, heaving a buggy up and down successive stone staircases, only to end up seeing a mediocre show, can take the shine off.
To this end, providing a single, child-friendly space for Edinburgh’s littlest theatre-goers has been the goal of the Pleasance Kidzone since 2009. “It was so parents could have a stress-free experience,” says Candida Alderson, coordinator of the Kidzone, located at the Pleasance Courtyard. “To give them somewhere to go with their kids where there were toys, books and food.”
With 26 shows in this year’s Kidzone, it’s a one-stop shop for all the times when popping into a pub to change a nappy is tricky. “It’s also to help all these amazing children’s companies publicise their work,” adds Alderson. Getting penny-pinched parents blasted from all sides by flyers to look beyond the best known shows can be tough.
If you’re at the Courtyard, check out Albee Vector the Sound Collector. And if big cats are your kids’ bag, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and You Look Tasty! (A Play by A. Tiger) should satisfy their cravings. There’s also the return of stunning Dr Seuss adaptation The Cat in the Hat. If you’ve got older children, check out New Old Friends’ adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s The Falcon’s Malteser, also in the Pleasance Courtyard.
New this year is Underbelly's Circus Hub, a space that embodies the “ethos of families working and playing together which is at the heart of a lot of circus tradition,” according to Underbelly co-directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood. Each day will start with a circus skills workshop for anyone over the age of eight, while shows like Trash Test Dummies are aimed at younger audiences.
Located on The Meadows, Circus Hub is a short walk from the Pleasance Dome and Gilded Balloon at Bristo Square, with Summerhall around the corner. Assembly Roxy, another venue with strong family-friendly offerings can be found between Bristo Square and the Pleasance Courtyard.
Gilded Balloon’s line-up includes Arabian Nights, winner of the 2014 Primary Times Children’s Choice Award, as well as Kids Do Forth on the Fringe, which features big names in kids’ entertainment and is presented by CBBC’s Bec Hill and comedian Tom Goodliffe. And for magic, time-travelling Victorian duo Morgan & West are among the best.
Summerhall has a reputation for creative and unusual programming, and with Anatomy of the Piano (For Beginners) and The Assembly of Animals – combining puppetry, magic and scientific demonstration – it’s the place to go if you want less traditional kids’ entertainment.
Likewise, with shows like the Neil Gaiman-inspired The Bookbinder hitting Edinburgh after winning awards in New Zealand and Australia, Assembly Roxy also has plenty to offer parents and children.
Meanwhile, the Edinburgh International Festival is branching into shows for young people this year. As well as free opening event The Harmonium Project, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, this year's programme includes the award-winning Dragon – a co-production between National Theatre Scotland, Vox Motus and Tianjin Children's Art Theatre.
It doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle with kids at Edinburgh. Don’t be afraid to explore.