He’s not exactly a cheery old card, medical Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve in this production by the Pins and Needles theatre company and the audience of under sixes and their families are there to watch the main man wake, wash and get ready for the most important day of his year. He’d rather be in Majorca, he tells us, but duty calls.
It is a simple little tale but charmingly told. and there are some lovely touches – the music and the many many sound effects are provided by Kate Adams up in the gallery, an incredibly versatile musician who at one point has a violin in one hand and a trumpet in another. The various animal puppets are beautifully animated by a very unobtrusive Elf (Claire Roi Harvey). The action is so meticulously choreographed between the Father Christmas (Andrew Bradley), the sound effects and the puppets that most of the audience clearly believe they are watching the real Father Christmas and his real dog, cat and reindeer. And for this age group Father Christmas is a celebrity with the status of Beyonce and the Pope rolled into one. The first ten minutes of the play sees the on stage action punctuated by frequent shouts of ‘Father Christmas!’ from starstruck four year olds.
There’s a lovely vein of cheeky playfulness running through the show: at one point we are treated to all the sound effects of Father Christmas going to the toilet which has the audience rolling in the aisles; the puppeteer snaffles a leftover biscuit; Santa’s bottom gets stuck down the chimney. The production clearly has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Add a sprinkling of snow, a magical sleigh ride and a huge silvery moon and it’s as Christmassy as a mince pie.
Our boys are transfixed for the whole fifty minutes running time – in the case of my two year old this is virtually unheard of! A thoroughly enjoyable day out which runs until it’s Christmas Eve in the real world.