Ipdip Theatre creates work for very young children. In this piece, specifically created for “under-fives and family”, Faye Greenwood (an elfologist) introduces her audience, conceptually, and then literally, to elves. This is a magical hour. All the children are plonked on cushions in a circle around Faye as she weaves her yarn, and everyone is spellbound. Truly. Faye uses a variety of seriously quirky props, and there is lots of joining in. There’s a musical activity, a craft activity, storytelling and plenty of things to look at and pass around for the older children. There are sensory experiences and frequently replenished toys for the babies, and there is, overall, an impressive level of detail and care on display. Many little details build up a sense of the elves. The production is a heartfelt attempt to engage even the smallest minds, and it really works.
A room full of babies and toddlers is daunting, even for people with babies and/or toddlers. Let’s be real, the sort of parent who takes under-fives to see an elf show at the Botanics is not the sort who sit back and let their offspring maim yours. But even then, it’s easy to feel that one baby at any given time is enough. If you feel an obligation to expose your child/ren to culture and ‘magical experiences,’ yet dread your kid will be *that kid*, then this might be the one for you. Do you sort of dread it on a personal -god this is awkward, don’t make me sing- level? Listen up: literally, none of those babies cried once. The two-year-olds forgot to be terrible (I know – ageist slur. But some of my favourite people are two-year-olds, so…). Each and every child behaved winningly throughout. Fluke, maybe? Maybe. But whilst ‘Shh… The elves are very shy’ cultivates an air of building expectation -are we really going to see elves- it is, primarily, sweet. And no one makes you – or your kid – sing or stand up or do anything they don’t want to. Participation is there, for those who want it, but if your small being is shy, the elves will understand.