Tony and Mike – The Country Owl and the City Squirrel

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (children’s shows): Tony and Mike – The Country Owl and the City Squirrel at Summerhall (Venue 26). Reviewed by David Pollock

“Earth is nature’s supermarket,” explains Joe, who has just enthusiastically relocated to the countryside with his friend Charlotte, who isn’t quite so sure about giving up their urban life for a future in the sticks. Joe is right behind the idea though, and starts growing vegetables with gusto.

Stowed away in Charlotte’s luggage, though, is their old friend from the city Mike, a grey squirrel, while living in the tree alongside their little cottage is Tony, an owl who likes a sleep during the day and a quiet life.

It’s surely a hard trick to pull off a show for the over-threes which manages to be kind-hearted and educationally useful while avoiding preachiness, and that’s why husband and wife creator and performer team Tom Frankland and Laura Mugridge deserve such praise for Tony and Mike.

It’s at once lovely and engaging, with the pair possessed of a manner which is warm and conversational but also clear, while Tom Adams’s light soundtrack and James Lewis’s busy set design create a suitably rustic air.

Fiona Meakin’s puppet design is clever and pleasing, with Tony in particular a creation who has real personality, and apparently status as a favourite with younger audience members.

In every sense this is a quality production, a simple evocation of country life rich with an honest sense of joy at working hard to make something grow – in this case a lone but welcome sunflower when the vegetables have failed. Plus, it has a happy ending.

That positive messages are delivered without the need for the piece to get on its high horse is all part of its endearing and irresistible charm.

Until 24 August. Today 3:45pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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