The Pine Tree, Poggle and Me brings engaging dance to pre-schoolers

Barrowland Ballet's production is ideal for little ones, with plenty of energetic, dynamic movement

Catching, holding and re-catching attention is a constant challenge for anyone creating work for a pre-school audience. But if anything is going to draw the eye of the average two-year-old, a man doing a headstand inside a box and re-emerging with a shoe is probably it.

The Pine Tree, Poggle and Me, the latest production by Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballet, is full of such moments.

Recognising the potential sensitivity of her young audience, choreographer Natasha Gilmore has created energetic, dynamic movement which engages rather than shocks into tears. Two dancers and a musician, surrounded by a cleverly devised ‘forest’ of colourful boxes, jump, climb and scamper across the stage – bringing smiles and giggles to all, regardless of age.

At the heart of the action lies a simple tale: Vince is too scared to climb trees, Poggle isn’t. Using an equally simple rhyme to convey this basic but effective narrative, the performers bring the set to life with bells, drum beats and body percussion.

As Vince overcomes his fears, everything is infused with a wide-eyed sense of discovery and joy. An atmosphere which is only added to when a few toddlers are allowed on stage to help make a tinkling sound with their feet.

Knowing how and when to end an early years show can be a challenge, but again Gilmore has got this spot on. Vince asks everybody to help cover Poggle in soft branches, as she snuggles down for a nap – then invites us all to explore the beautiful set, filled with woodland cornucopia.

Such interaction isn’t always possible, of course, but for pre-schoolers experiencing theatre for the first time (and, crucially, the adults next to them observing their reaction) it’s the perfect way to engage, excite and encourage a return visit.

Reviewed at Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Thu 5 Feb

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