Review: You Choose (Assembly George Square)
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
What happens when the limitless realms of imagination meet the constraints of the theatre? One of the difficulties of live performance is adapting a work where the laws of physics are broken, or the concepts are so vast they cannot be contained on the stage. The beloved children’s book You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart offers its readers the chance to pick anything and everything they could possibly want from life; a vast array of places to live, clothes to wear, furniture to own, and so on. The page with the pet possibilities alone could dominate an entire West-End London stage. In Nonsense Room Productions’ adaptation, they aim to recreate the same fun of reading the book, in one hour, on a Fringe stage, for an audience of 2-7-year-olds.
In answer to the challenge, hosts Paul Beeson and Carrie Mancini invite the audience to take part in a series of games. Children can drop a ping-pong ball into one of six tubs to choose whether they want to live in the jungle, in space, in the city, etc. A race of Mexican waves determines which pet will be chosen. A large scale game of Top Trumps decides what roles Paul and Mancini will play, such as “Witch” and “Santa”. Some of these are more successful than others; the top trumps hooked the young audience, even though they figured out how to win impressively quickly. The Mexican waves on the other hand meant the final result (Zebra) was more a matter of chance than a matter of choice. Even so, there is always the exciting prospect of the show being different every time it is performed, with joyfully random combinations such as the outfit choice of a sari, a crown, and platform boots.
Photo Credit: Ian Georgeson
Beeson and Mancini have earned their stripes as children’s entertainers. They know the steps, they know what lines will garner the biggest cheers, and they know how to maximise engagement. The downside is that they both have an air of being a little too comfortable. They know that they can get away with fumbling lines, forgetting song lyrics, and adlibbing, even if to a more mature eye it comes off as unpolished. It is never egregious, but it is consistent. Their laid-back approach is not far off from what audiences might expect of children’s performers on a cruise ship or at a holiday resort, though with a stronger overall direction and a visibly higher budget. Mancini still brings a warmth and sense of fun to her performance, but her co-star Beeson doesn’t bring the amount of energy and zing his role requires.
For the intended audience, however, it doesn’t matter. There’s plenty of shouting and cheering to do, lots of chances for kids to contribute, and games that make the most of Sharratt’s brilliant illustrations. Since it has no story there is no pressure to pay close attention the whole way through. This is all to say; You Choose is best described as a children’s show, not a family show. Grown-up audiences will get little out of the pantomime-like search for a cardboard cut-out cat, but at 10:30 when all parents need is a bit of wholesome fun that will engage their wee ones and let their energy out, You Choose more than serves its purpose. Three stars.
Whispers from the Crowd:
I thought it was really good. Well paced, and the right size of venue. Sometimes with things like this the venue is too big.
Only thing is the seating is all in twos, not threes, which is not great for families of three.
It was really fun and engaging
Photo Credit: Ian Georgeson