Directors: Hannah Stone and Ria Ashcroft
The Gramophones is a female-led contemporary theatre company that devises powerful theatre for children and young people. This show was first created during the pandemic and performed in a digital format, which is still fully accessible online. The production is like a giant bag of pick and mix offering every possible theatrical convention to its target audience of under 8s. It’s a high energy, vivacious piece of children’s theatre.
Aidy the Awesome is a modern-day fable carrying with it a message of respect, self-esteem and the management of one’s own emotions. The story begins in school, where Charlie (Hazel Monaghan) steals Aidy’s (Farrell Cox) work and is moved to the top of the star chart. Overcome with anger due to this injustice, Aidy throws a tantrum and accidentally discovers that she can fly. Having rushed home to tell her Granny (Deborah Sanderson) what has happened, she discovers that she is from a long line of female superheroes, which Granny tells her by way of an awesome acrobatic aerial display. Cox is incredible as the titular character, wonderfully juvenile putting her childish elasticity to work in the incredible physical sequences.
Following the traditional superhero trope to the letter, the show then follows Aidy as she gets to grips with her new powers and foils the plot of dastardly Ron De Chocolat to steal all the superhero powers. Kathryn Hanke as Ron De Chocolat is the perfect anti-hero, bearing a box of Milk Tray as her mind-controlling weapon of choice. Her physicality is excellent, and she brings much of the physical comedy, with more than a hint of Norman Wisdom about her.
A particular highlight comes in the final showdown where superheroes are throwing weather power, freeze power and finally fart powers at each other. This leaves the little ones in stitches and provides moments of exceptional physical comedy.
Gwen Hales has provided an excellent choreographic journey through the narrative of this show. The movement is glorious to behold, seamlessly flowing from explosive acrobatics to half paced fight sequences and gravity-defying tricks. The cast is diverse and put their circus skills to good use, making Hales’ choreography appear easy. It is unusual to see an older actor perform acrobatic tricks, but Deborah Sanderson is refreshing to see as she takes to the aerial hoop.
Irene Jade’s design is strikingly juvenile, with pops of bright fluffy colours and textures coming from all angles. The set is quirky, and yet multifunctional and concise. Props are well placed and swiftly brought in and out of the action. It is somehow reminiscent of the inside of a child’s arts and craft box. The cuboid shape of the set allows for swift scene transitions and for the creation of the beautiful stunt work.
The script (as devised by the company) is chock full of witty jokes that enthral the children and adults alike. With a laid-back atmosphere, The Gramophones have created an environment that is quite frankly a breath of fresh air to families with young children who want to be neither still nor quiet.
This excellent script, coupled with tight direction from Hannah Stone and Ria Ashcroft, allows for a pacy production that is equal parts panto, circus and musical that is sure to leave the children for whom it is intended hungry for more theatrical experiences. The show is pitched beautifully to its young audience, who are actively included in the narrative and very much a part of the action. The Gramophones have encapsulated the magic of a child at imaginative play and brought it to life on the stage in a way that excites and never patronises the audience.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to catch Aidy the Awesome live while you still can.
Reviewed on 31 May 2022 and on tour