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Sparkle review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘heavy-handed show for the over-threes’

Sparkle at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Brad Goda

Using her own son’s experiences of being bullied at primary school for wearing dresses and all things glitter, Annie Cusick Wood has attempted to help young people in a similar situation with this short but intense piece aimed at three year olds and over.

Christina Uyeno is endearing and friendly as the elfin creature Kokua, who acts as a guide for both the audience and the character of Sparkle. She arranges his new, drab school clothes and tries to persuade him to give up his glitter and flowing robes.

Nathaniel Niemi as Sparkle, however, is having nothing of it. He’s more interested in his pet caterpillar and his preparation to perform for his new friends at class.

It can’t go well. Sparkle’s days at school are told through shadow puppets, depicting his games of ball with only one friend – and being being beaten up by Alistair Kane for wearing sparkling clothes.

Karen Tennent’s white, camping tent-like set provides Wood, who also directs, with an easy playing area in which to tell her narrative.

But for all its well-meaning worthiness, and the lightness of touch in Uyeno’s performance, it is a heavy-handed message. And the portrayal of the way five year olds play just doesn’t ring true in a way that would carry more weight.

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – the Musical! review at National Theatre, London – ‘a bear-illiant musical adaptation’


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Heavily messaged inclusive show for over-threes that needs a lighter touch and better observed characterisation