Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Father Christmas - review

Written by: Alex Hiscocks (@alexislawl)

Lyric Hammersmith, London

While visually hinting back to its roots in Brigg’s original illustrations, Pins and Needles have adapted the iconic tale in a way that gives children a taste of what modern theatre is all about. With puppetry, live music and wonderful visual effects; this studio production of Raymond Brigg’s iconic Father Christmas is wonderful, charming and captivating. Most importantly, the kids loved it. Short enough to keep even the very young interested, Father Christmas at the Lyric Hammersmith is an ideal theatrical treat for children this Christmas.

The story of Father Christmas requires little explaining; it’s Christmas Eve and Saint Nick is facing a long night delivering presents. We follow him as he rather begrudgingly faces his only work day of the year, and a somewhat grumpy Father Christmas soon realises the beauty and joy in bringing happiness to the children of the world. Barry McCarthy aptly fits the bill, injecting the energy and character required while he traversed the constantly moving stage in the intimate Lyric studio. The design of the piece is reminiscent of the original illustrations; it’s both charming and effective as the small space allows little room for grand scenery. 

Throughout the tale we’re supported by live music and sound effects all performed by Kate Adams, who does an impressive job playing multiple instruments throughout and providing amusing foley to keep the audience firmly engrossed. David Emmings as puppeteer took on the role of cat, dog, chicken and reindeer throughout and his mastering of Max Humphries’ puppet designs thrilled the kids. The attention to detail throughout the design of this piece was impressive: little shadow puppets dance in the windows of houses as Father Christmas sails above and the set falls in and out of itself as the play progresses. We watch as Santa climbs chimneys, sneaks into bedrooms delivering stockings and clambers across rooftops, all inside the intimate studio space, it’s impressive what they have managed to pack in to such a small space and a short performance.

This play for all intensive purposes is aimed at children, and younger children at that. There is nothing to be had here if you’re an adult seeking a grand theatrical experience and that’s okay. This retelling of Father Christmas does what it means to do incredibly well and nothing more. It was wonderful to see the children so captivated in the piece and at times (to my surprise) completely silent. For a young child this production is both audibly and visually stimulating. Puppetry, amusing sound effects, bubbles and a hilarious egg dispensing chicken wonderfully complement the energetic cast. It was a joy to watch, no parent had to leave, crying child in tow; every child, even the youngest ones sat attentively and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. If you’re looking to share the magic of Christmas with your child but wary of sitting them through a panto, look no further than Pins and Needles’ joyous take on Father Christmas.

This production runs until 5 January 2013. 

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