Little Jokes @ Underbelly, Cowgate

Review by Eric Karoulla | 14 Aug 2014

Directed by Eilise McNicholas, Belfast-based theatre company Chatterbox bring Seamus Collins’ Little Jokes to the Fringe. The production follows a boy’s difficulty in making friends at school, dealing with the death of his parents, and sees him immerse himself in Edward Lear’s realm of nonsense. Incredibly funny, and yet moving, Little Jokes comprises of a great introduction to Lear’s literary work, while also revealing a little about the man himself. The play is not just a random compilation of poems or prose shoehorned into the script for the sake of it, but rather weaves them into the plot with ease and intelligence.

Selected as one of the BBC’s Writersroom 10, it is no wonder that Collins’ script is strong. However, his writing skills are matched by Chatterbox's innovative approach to the play. Through shadow puppetry and with an accordion for live music, the performers use a simple yet effective way of constructing the world that exists in Anthony’s imagination without having to worry about building an elaborate set for it. Of course, it might help that this is their third collaboration with Collins. The BBC's writersroom ten is a year-long programme providing ten emerging playwrights with support, in the attempt to encourage and sustain new writing for the theatre. 

It's rare to see a piece that claims and actually is accessible to all ages and backgrounds. It's even more rare to see a show that promotes a love of literature and celebrates the power of the imagination. This is one of those shows – it's funny, poetic (after all, it is inspired by Edward Lear), and magical in its own way.

Little Jokes, Underbelly Cowgate,
Until August 10, 12.40 p.m.,
various prices