Upswing's cosy, colourful show is a young circus fan's dream
When you enter the theatre space for Bedtime Stories you realise just how literally Upswing has taken the titling of its show. Cosy mattresses surround the square stage, along with day beds and blanket-covered chairs. So comfy and inviting is the atmosphere you might think there'd be the risk of watching tots (or adults for that matter) nodding off.
Happily, there's too much going on for that to happen. The action takes place in the bedroom of a little girl who, in her mother's words, has a 'head full of dreams'. She craves stories, and when her mum doesn't have time to read her any more, she turns to her own fantasy world, accompanied by imaginary friend Three.
Here there are bold-coloured sweeps of hills, acrobatic spinning chases, space-walks – beautifully done on white silks – and pirate seas to cross. It's all gracefully choreographed and lovingly acted. Meanwhile, the single mother's plight unfolds in parallel, giving something more for adults to ponder. As she tries to juggle work, mothering and looking after the house, she is lost at what to prioritise.
The story does meander without a real central pull, and it's possible this is the reason behind the number of restless youngsters during the second half, on my visit. But there is a wholehearted warmth to Bedtime Stories, and its message – that disappearing into imagination with your children isn't wasted time – strikes a welcome chord.
Underbelly's Circus Hub, until 22 Aug, times vary, £10.50–£11.50 (£9.50–£10.50).