‘Will Tell and the Big Bad Baron’ (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose – Doonstairs, until AUG 26)

“An August without Theatre Fideri Fidera would be like the Edinburgh Tattoo without bagpipes.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

For our family there’s one theatre company at EdFringe which is officially unmissable. For their 2022 offering the Brighton-based family firm are returning to themes inspired by their Anglo-Swiss heritage. I’m not sure I could have told you before now that the legend of William Tell, the archer famous for his apple-shot, was Swiss or that he used a crossbow. Like our own Robin Hood, Tell is remembered as a freedom fighter, a people’s champion loved by the good feared, by the bad.

We enter to find an upturned soapbox, that symbol of plain-speaking and fearless truth-telling of which ex-PM John Major was so fond. There’s also a sign informing the citizenry that from here on in they are to bow, genuflect, and kowtow to the feathery hat of Bad Baron Boris (I’ve heard it might just have easily been Bad Baron Donald but Boris is a funnier name) which is hanging on one of the sign’s corners. It is a very silly hat. Flanking the soapbox and sign are two stone towers. I spend more than a little time trying to figure out if these are made of real stone or if they are painted. Obviously it’s the latter, but this precision and attention to detail speak quiet volumes about Theatre Fideri Fidera’s approach to their craft.

Over a rachus, occasionally ridiculous, and always entertaining hour we meet young Will who must rescue her father and free the princess from Baron Boris’ castle. Natasha Granger and Jack Faires are reunited with that same spell binding on-stage partnership we saw in ‘Ogg ’n’ Ugg and the World’s First Dogg’. Natasha is the Portland Vase of playacting – so delicate, so intentional, so well defined, classic yet immediate. She has a lovely way of bringing groups of children onto the stage and weaving them into the magic and fun. Daughters 1.0 (7yrs) and 2.0 (4yrs) were brought up to help Will don his suit of armour from a collection of colanders, dustbin lids etc. and (obviously) that was the best bit of the show. Jack Faires is big, bold, and brilliant as both the baron and his beautiful (in her own special way) daughter. It’s a pleasure to boo him with all one’s might.

Daughter 1.0 had this to say in her notebook: “In Will Tell and the big bad baron Will’s Dad was toled (by the baron) to fire a arrow in to an apple on Will’s head. And he was traped and my sister helped her to get dressed. She rode on a donkey Rosina Who was made of a bike. She had a fight with the baron and saved his dauter Who was traped too! And then she found her Dad in a dundion. And afder that they all went home together. I loved it!”

An August without Theatre Fideri Fidera would be like the Edinburgh Tattoo without bagpipes. Their sets and puppetry are second to none. They’ve roared out of lockdown doing what they do best, making children laugh while they think – or should that be think while they laugh?


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