Dexter has everything an eleven-year old would want in life – a best friend, an X-Box, and now he gets to spend the day at Thorpe Park. That great life is turned upside down when his mum is arrested for her part in a jewellery robbery. Convinced that his mum is innocent, Dexter sets off with best friend Winter to find out who actually did it.
The first of three Paines Plough shows at the Edinburgh Fringe is a fast-paced and visually striking piece of children’s theatre. It’s an extremely physical play too – director Stef O’Driscoll and movement director Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster keep the three performers moving, adding extra urgency to what is already a frenetic story. The actors match that energy well enough though, at times, the play feels louder than it needs to be. It seems as though they’ve been instructed to shout a lot of their lines, which does get a bit grating after a while.
What O’Driscoll does develop very well is the relationship between Toyin Omari-Kinch (Dexter) and Charlotte O’Leary (Winter). The two actors have a great chemistry and do a great job of playing pre-teen best friends. Charlotte Bate runs around playing different characters, and she’s arguably the one holding everything together, but it’s the two ‘kids’ on stage that the kids in the audience are drawn to. Peter Small also deserves a mention here – his quick cuts and abrupt lighting changes really makes the play feel like a cartoon, enhanced by Dominic Kennedy’s upbeat sound.
The true test of a children’s show, obviously, is if it works for the children, and Dexter and Winter’s Detective Agency definitely does. There is certainly room for improvement, but this is still a fun and, more importantly, crowd-pleasing production.