REVIEW: Aidy the Awesome, The Gramophones (Arts Depot)

The Gramophones are a female-led company making contemporary theatre that puts women and girls centre stage. They are currently on tour with Aidy the Awesome, an aerial theatre show for ages 3 to 8 which aims to break down gender stereotypes and offer young girls funny, feisty and strong role models. This sort of show is right up our street, so we were thrilled to be invited to review it at Arts Depot last weekend.

Created during the pandemic, the show was first performed digitally and is still available to watch online if you can’t make it to one of the live performances. This is good news for us, as Quaver ended up missing out on Sunday because she wasn’t feeling very well. This would have been an absolutely perfect show for her so it’s great that The Gramophones are still offering a digital version to ensure the production reaches as wide an audience as possible.

Featuring a gang of super hero grannies, a dastardly chocolatier and a young girl with her own very special set of skills, Aidy the Awesome is an empowering production with some really important lessons about respect, self-esteem and emotional intelligence. It begins in a schoolroom, where 8 year old Aidy (Farrell Cox) finds herself seething when classmate, Charlie (Hazel Monaghan) steals her artwork and gets moved up the class star chart. To add insult to injury, Aidy ends up in trouble with the teacher because she’s too angry at the injustice of it all. A trip to see her awesome Granny (Deborah Sanderson) is just what Aidy needs. Granny knows how to help Aidy calm herself down and she also has a little family secret to reveal – Aidy’s no ordinary 8 year old. She’s a superhero! Aidy soon finds her newly discovered powers being put to the test, as she sets out to recover Granny’s powers from super villain, Ron de Chocolate (Kathryn Hanke). Can Aidy keep her emotions under control and save the day? Or will Ron add her powers to his collection?

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

The show is entertaining and makes great use of circus skills (which the cast make look a lot easier than they are). It’s brilliant to see older people being represented on stage as positive role models, and showing that you’re never too old to hoist yourself up onto an aerial hoop! And while it’s daft and upbeat, there is some really important messaging about finding your own talents and not comparing yourself to others. This is something which will really resonate for many youngsters, particularly with the references to familiar classroom management tools like the star chart and the dreaded Star of the Week . We absolutely hate these sorts of systems, as they are ineffective for developing a growth mindset and can be really damaging to children’s self esteem. (Here’s just one example of many articles on the subject.) It was great to see a show promoting a wider range of talents than those that might be noticed in a classroom, as well as highlighting how it is more important to do the right thing than be publicly recognised for it.

The script (devised by the company) is witty, with plenty in there for both adults and children as well as lots of very natural audience participation. Some of the latter was very much driven by the children in the audience last Sunday, who got very involved in the action. It was lovely to hear a little girl shouting “Go on Aidy, you can do it” as well as watching a little boy trying to take on Ron de Chocolate in a war of words. The cast took it all in their stride, really making the children feel part of the production.

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

As regular readers will know, we are big fans of musical theatre in this household so one thing that can set apart family productions for us is the quality of the songs. This is another thing that The Gramophones get right, clearly believing (as we do) that family productions deserve the same high quality songwriting as shows aimed at adults. It makes a huge difference when the music is crafted by a specialist so it was absolutely no surprise to read in the programme that the songs in Aidy the Awesome had been written by the wonderful Darren Clark (whose work we have enjoyed in a range of productions for both adults and children).

Aidy the Awesome is a fun filled show that will inspire children to find the superhero inside themselves. If it’s touring near you, make sure you grab your Granny and take her for an awesome afternoon. And if not, if not, remember that you can also catch this fabulous family show online!

Aidy the Awesome played at Arts Depot on Sunday 22 May 2022 as part of a national tour. We received complimentary press tickets to the afternoon performance.