I haven’t been to many Fringe shows that ended with everyone in the audience asking for a picture of the performers. Then again Hello, Hedgehogs! deviates from the norm in a bunch of ways. Its solo performer, Ellie Shinman, must not have heard the dictum “never share the stage with small children or live animals!” Or if she did, she let it be one more rule to be broken.
Shinham describes herself as an animal person. She lives with a cat, Annabelle, which sounds like an unusual feline: “If you gave this cat an opposable thumb she would rule the world!” And if you go to Shinman’s show you can hear how this cat inspired her to adopt two hedgehogs, Felicity and Pinkie Moon.
These are the performers so sought after when Hello, Hedgehogs! ended: it was a 10am Saturday morning event, so there were only a handful of us at the show, but everyone pulled out their phones and crowded around to capture the memory.
The structure of the show is simple: Shinham tells us three stories, sitting comfortably on a stool, no fancy costumes or set. Her hedgehogs not only inspired the first story, which presents a new twist on The Brothers Grimm’s tale “Hans the Hedgehog,” but Felicity also appears in the narrative at appropriate moments.
When Shinham finishes this first part of the show she steps out of storytelling mode and presents her pets. She says the first question from most people is “Why?” as in “Why have a pet hedgehog?”
By the time she finished the explanation I was wondering why more people didn’t have these cute creatures as pets. They are visually gorgeous – covered in spines that look soft to the eye and feel like you are “running your hand over a hair brush” (Shinham’s words). Everyone in the audience can pet the animals (if they wish) and Shinham even showed us some of their cool tricks and defense mechanisms. They do a “self-anointing” ritual which I had never heard of, but was amazed by. Which brings Shinham back into storytelling mode.
Her second story features hedgehogs outwitting a squirrel. It was an original story created by Shinham and reminded me of one of Aesop’s fables with its different animals taking on distinct personalities (the hedgehog was the heroine, of course!) and it ended with a moral.
The last story Shinham told, “The Bed Just So”, didn’t feature hedgehogs, but included an unusual creature that needed a very specific sleeping place. Although my attention wandered a little during this tale, it was primarily because the hedgehogs had been so interesting. As Shinham sat on a stool to tell us stories, the hedgehogs waited in a plastic baby pool (without water), usually hidden inside their fuchsia pink plastic castle which was placed inside the pool.
At the end of the show Shinham welcomed questions and photos, even distributed a discussion sheet for parents who wanted to continue the conversation about her stories and hedgehogs. It was a delightful event, great for all ages, and as educational as it was entertaining. A cross between story time and “Animal Planet.”
Hello, Hedgehogs! has 2 more performances at The Mountain – Mt. Vernon Church, 900 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC.