The Elves and the Shoemaker is a vigorous, larky version of the tale by The Brothers Grimm adapted and directed by Nick Lane. It certainly does more than enough to keep the tinies entertained, but is less strong on charm and subtlety than on energy and colour. References to poo and wee, initially delightful for the young audience, eventually lose their humour by repetition.
In this version two elves, on delivery duty for Santa, pause in their labours to tell the story of an earlier adventure with the shoemaker and his wife. The tale of the poor shoemaker who is always generous to other unfortunates and is helped to prosperity by the elves is complicated by the introduction of a snobbish selfish wife determined to pursue status and riches. She does this by capturing the older elf, Corky, and forcing him to help her seek her fortune via narrative devices from other fairy tales.
Matthew Booth (Corky) and Amy Walsh (Peeptoe) are presented, rather obviously, as total opposites, he rather glum and nervous of offending against the elves’ rule book, she an obstreperous madcap teenager. Both play a whole variety of parts, with Booth especially appealing in the non-human roles: his stunt-mouse is decidedly more fun that Corky or the Shoemaker. Walsh brings a beguiling liveliness to everything she does, with a glass-shattering accent as the shoemaker’s wife, but is alarmingly loud at times. Constant heavy miking of both actors doesn’t help in establishing individual rapport with audience members, with audience participation consisting mainly of pantomime-style mass shouting.
Nick Lane keeps things going at a healthy canter, with both actors performing wonders of quick changes, aided by James Cotterill’s colourful and ingenious costumes. Tristan Parkes’ catchy songs and some neat puppet-play add to the enjoyment.