Sheriff Wayne and the Sundance Cave[author-post-rating] (2/5 stars)

Children’s theatre isn’t easy and it’s naïve to assume that a littler audience will automatically be a kinder one. Lincoln Company is about 75% of the way to a properly good kids’ show with Sheriff Wayne and the Sundance Cave – but it’s the ingenuity, the fun and the unpredictability of other children’s theatre that is missing here. That last 25% is alchemical and essential.

Sheriff Wayne is the last hope of Nowheresville, which, despite being a Wild West town with presumably no great reliance on electricity, is inexplicably having some kind of energy crisis. Wayne and his rival, Cowgirl Jane, are forced to join forces when the town Mayor sends them on a quest: to locate the beautiful Sundance Cave and harness the energy contained inside it. No problem – as long as they get there before the evil Doctor Nisi, who needs that self-same energy for reasons of Miscellaneous Evil. So, okay, there’s basically not much of a plot, but that needn’t be a problem as long as the songs and the set pieces are good. And some of them are.

The audience interaction is nicely done, especially a sequence in which they get two young volunteers to help them perform a dance, but they feels just a little too few and far between. It seems that with children’s theatre, you need to either have a story that is moving, hilarious or enchanting, or if your show is plot-light you need to have thrown a bunch of other ideas at it. With Sheriff Wayne, The Lincoln Company hasn’t quite committed to doing either.

There are some nice songs and some funny performances, though having a caucasian girl with blonde hair play the last member of a Native American tribe does actually feel a bit conspicuous. Obviously they’re not going for high-realism here, with evil genii and lonely robots floating about in the desert, but it’s still a little uncomfortable to see someone playing a member of a different ethnic group.

As a whole, Sheriff Wayne is enjoyably high-energy and feels a bit like watching an intense, hour-long Golden Nuggets commercial. The script is meandering and could do with some overhauling. The likeable cast, on the other hand, reveal themselves to be semi-comfortable improvisers when interacting with the audience or whenever things go wrong, and these moments are very funny indeed. It’s then that you see the potential of this team of performers, but it’s a potential that is often, sadly, wasted.

Sheriff Wayne and the Sundance Cave can be seen at 11.00am at C Nova, every day until 26th August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.