At Santa’s HQ in the North Pole - a proscenium arch covered in icicles and a superbly simple set in blue and white showing a world map, beneath which are two holes marked ‘in’ and ‘out‘ (sadly not used) and two large doors marked Toys and Stables - all is not well.
With only an hour to go before Santa is due out to deliver his presents the voice of Control announces the news that Christmas may have to be cancelled as there is thick fog and even with 'Santanav' it is too dangerous for him to go out unless a solution can be found.
Santa’s two elf helpers meet and greet people as they arrive; Holly Easterbrook as Kara, with plaited pigtails and dressed in a green fur trimmed skirt and Joe Allen’s Charlie in his yellow top and shorts make an ideal pair. They are engaging, entertaining and sensitive to the reactions from their audience who range in age from two years upwards.
He is of course the naughty elf who at the start of the show has made himself invisible, not to us but to Father Christmas, or rather John Hester’s larger-than-life Santa Claus; visually perfect he combines a magnificent commanding voice with warmth and humour that makes one want to invite him back for mince pies and a noggin. But back to the story…
With a few hints from Charlie the kids come up with the answer, Rudolph with his red glowing nose, but he has disappeared because of all the name calling so the hunt is on. However, in the stable we find a giant teddy called Muffin who is more hindrance than help, and he provides some great comic banter that can be appreciated by both young and old.
Aimed at children aged two to eight this production has a simple storyline with plenty of songs and magic to keep them wondering, enough comedy (including the traditional cracker jokes), to keep everyone engaged, illusions crafted by none other than Paul Daniels and a chance to meet Santa after the show.
If there is a criticism it is the rather long voice over narration and song at the start before the elves appear and the lack of knockabout physical humour. Although this is not Panto as such, there were opportunities for more audience participation which could have been included.
If you have small kids this is an ideal introduction to theatre and at an hour just the right length - take your children and you won’t be disappointed.
- Dave Jordan