Playbill Pick: Shadow Kingdom at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Shadow Kingdom at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

400 different shadow puppets are used to bring this beautiful, family-friendly show to life.

Shadow Kingdom

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

I am a simple man: I see the phrase “shadow puppets” in a show description, I book. In this case, the show is called Shadow Kingdom, playing at the Assembly Roxy every day at 11:15 AM. As it begins, one of the actors announces that we’re allowed to go to sleep during the show if we want, as long as we don’t snore. It’s a “family-friendly” show, so the message is probably aimed more at kids, but I know a lot of grownups would very much enjoy a show with that disclaimer. Of course, the problem is the show is so stimulating, who could sleep? It features 400 handmade shadow puppets. It’s almost like watching a live animated movie. It even has musical numbers!

Shadow Kingdom was created by two artists who live in Japan—Japanese artist Seri Yanai, who created all of the beautiful puppets; and Canadian artist Daniel Wishes, who wrote the story. The show is entirely performed by the two of them, with Yanai voicing the main character of Minerva, and Wishes voicing everyone else. The general story is that Minerva is a little girl who is obsessed with her smartphone and can’t sleep because she’s waiting for an invitation to an exclusive party. As she’s lying in bed on her phone not sleeping, Hypnosis—king of the Shadow Kingdom—reaches into her house to steal her smartphone. But Minerva won’t let go and is sent all the way to the Shadow Kingdom. There, she meets an owl who also hates sleeping. The owl has a song with a verse about a mountain of chocolates—be still my chocolate-loving heart. He eventually tricks Minerva into helping him overthrow Hypnosis and ban sleep forever in the Shadow Kingdom. In one very amusing part of the aftermath, Minerva is taken to a “sleepeasy” where a few inhabitants are secretly sleeping. The show is just absolutely charming.

The entire show is performed live by the two artists, who sit at the front of the stage, on opposite sides of a light. Each puppet or scene is individually moved by hand, and it’s remarkable to see all the thought that’s put into each and every one. These aren’t just static puppets on a stick—some of them have limbs that move, and there are characters that put on a mask or a crown. I found myself alternately gasping or smiling widely as the various puppets were revealed.

Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai performing Shadow Kingdom

If you’re a fan of puppets or animation or just visually stunning theatre, whether you have a child to bring along or not, Shadow Kingdom is well worth seeing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Shadow Kingdom is playing at the Assembly Roxy through August 27. For tickets, click here. To learn about more Playbill-recommended shows at this venue, click here.

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