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Curiouser & curiouser

The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is one of the most eagerly anticipated kids’ shows at the Fringe. Caroline Black talks to its star, Shona Reppe about the magic of ‘scrapology.’


y interview with Shona Reppe, designer, puppeteer and mum, starts with us both apologising in advance about the possibility of being interrupted by our respective children. “They have a knack of always appearing when I pick up the phone”, she explains. The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is a one-woman show, for children age seven and over, based entirely around a dusty old Victorian scrapbook. Reppe is cast as Dr Patricia Baker who is a Doctor of Scrapology, a ‘scrapologist’ if you will, and through her forensic investigation with her white lab coat, tweezers and bright lamps, we enter a secret world that unfolds page by page into the most magical of stories.    “I find scrapbooks fascinating as you can put anything in them. They’re puzzling to everyone except their owner. It’s not like

a diary; it doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s a collection of objects put together that can create a story and I’m trying to decipher that. That’s the fun of it and I think children really understand that.” “It’s not a typical children’s theatre set up. It can be hard to put your finger on exactly what style of show it is, but it’s been described as part-journey into the imagination, part-detective story, which I think is spot on.” It’s certainly clear that it’s not a show for tots, as they will need to just sit and watch, take it in and understand the twists and turns as they’re revealed. Reppe is clear it’s also not “a shouty-screamy show. I don’t aim to check they’re awake by shouting ‘Hooray, put your hands up!’ I’m doing a show for people. They just happen to be kids.”

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“The majority of my audiences come with a whole bunch of adults too, especially in the Fringe, and the shared experience between a child and a parent if they’re both enjoying the show is just the best thing for me. I love it when parents come just because they think it’ll be good for their child, and then they enjoy it too and can chat about it together afterwards. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.” Reppe’s very honest about how much of a challenge the show was to get right. “It was a really hard show to create. I knew I needed to build atmosphere on stage, as it’s actually quite a simple set; a big old book and me. So I’m using small bits of projection, animation and film, which I haven’t done before, to enhance the story and keep it animated and engaging. The music is also very important, there are little clues in the sounds, it’s quite fantastical from the word go.” Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, the show will be the first time Reppe has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2002. After this ten years absence, it’s a happy and excited return and she’s clearly delighted to be reunited with director Gill Robertson from Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and composer Danny Krass, whom she worked with on the highly acclaimed production ‘White’. “Creating this has been a very collaborative experience and I’m lucky enough to work with good friends who help me develop the show, which also makes it very exciting. I might start with an idea about how the background should be designed or what I’ll wear but when we start rehearsing it evolves. I’m always open to ideas.” I wonder how she knows she’s onto a winner when she’s creating a new show; how she knows her audience will get it. Does she try things out with test audiences or her own children as she goes along? “Not really, I tend to trust my instincts that it will work. I’m not terribly prescriptive. If it works, it works and that’s the magic of theatre.” If her audience leaves with one thing what would she like that to be? “On many occasions children have said to me straight after the show they’re going to start a scrapbook and that’s really nice. But I suppose the story is about how we go through life but have we really looked at the detail that’s going on around us? We think we’ve got the picture but actually if you look closer something completely different is going on, other things are happening that we don’t even notice. It’s all about those different layers.” f

The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean Traverse @ Scottish Book Trust times vary, 3–26 Aug, not 6, 13, 20, £6 – £10

Fest Preview 2012  

The definitive Festival magazine

Fest Preview 2012  

The definitive Festival magazine