Bedtime Stories at Arnolfini

Image courtesy Farrows Creative
Image courtesy Farrows Creative

As I bundle my children into the Arnolfini’s theatre space from the rainy harbourside, we look around and realise this is no ordinary performance. The seating, in the round (or actually the square), is on beds and mattresses, with duvets, pillows and blankets to keep everyone snuggly. There is popcorn! Hetty (4) is delighted already.

The show starts and we’re introduced to a sleep-refusing girl, her imaginary friend and her overworked mother. The narrative of the show is pleasingly original and, though a little slow in parts, held my children’s attention. My four year old in particular said she liked the story, which was in equal parts whimsy, swashbuckling and quite genuinely moving. I dare any parent not to experience a flutter of guilt while watching the classic theme of being too busy to connect with your child unfold.

Bedtime Stories is part of Bristol’s biennial Circus City festival and the physical aspect of the performance was a blend of dance, acrobatics and aerial silks. The dancing was beautifully choreographed and the contrast between the anarchic flow of our heroine and the jerky movements of the mother at her desk tickled me especially. The floor acrobatics were a little less inspired and it seemed that the performers were less interested in these parts of the show somehow. The aerial silks was magnificent though and there were some unusual moves, perfectly executed. Hetty found this especially exciting and so did I.

The real brilliance of the show though was the overall atmosphere created by the cosy surroundings but also the well-chosen music and mesmerising visuals projected onto four retractable screens around the central bed, complementing the gentle but exciting story. It was a peaceful, relaxing and enthralling journey we went on today and one we’d heartily recommend. Upswing have produced one of the best family circus shows in a naughty-girl (say it fast) mile!

Circus City runs at various Bristol venues until 21st October


  • Review by Emma-Louise Hardman

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