Preview: Children's International Theatre Festival, Various venues, Edinburgh

Children's theatre, all grown up
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The Independent Culture

As director of the Children's International Theatre Festival, Tony Reekie travels all over the world in search of interesting productions. "I have seen about 2,500 children's shows in 10 years," he reveals, "and the great thing about children's theatre is that even when it is not terribly good, it is mercifully short."

As director of the Children's International Theatre Festival, Tony Reekie travels all over the world in search of interesting productions. "I have seen about 2,500 children's shows in 10 years," he reveals, "and the great thing about children's theatre is that even when it is not terribly good, it is mercifully short."

There won't, however, be bad theatre at this festival, now in its 15th year. It is the largest performing arts festival for children in the UK, lasting seven days and featuring 14 productions from all over Europe. "When it's good, it is as good as theatre gets," says Reekie.

The Russian Ekaterinburg Theatre Company stages Chekhov's short story Kashtanka (for nine- to 14-year-olds), about a dog who joins a circus of performing animals. "This is the first time ever that we have had a Russian theatre company here," says Reekie.

The Introdans Ensemble for Youth, from the Netherlands, perform Party (for eight- to 14-year-olds), a series of modern ballets with attitude. "This is not about dumbing down, but choosing pieces from choreographers who can engage young audiences," explains Reekie. Psycho Killer is set to the Talking Heads song and involves dancers with their legs tied together. The programme ends with a spectacular spoof in which dancers wear powdered wigs and ball gowns on wheels.

The Danish company Det Lille Turneteater is targeting three-year-olds with Dorthe's Heart, about a little girl, Dorthe, and her feelings. "You can actually see butterflies in her stomach, when her best friend comes to visit her," says Reekie.

The Festival also marks the debut of Scottish newcomers Cat in a Cup and Such is Nature, a performance piece about a man who searches the world for sounds. "It is his search for happiness," says Reekie. "The noises he collects together reveal the message, 'No one should have to be lonely'."

24 to 30 May (0131-228 1404; www.imaginate.org.uk)

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