Although it slumps a bit in the middle, and doesn’t match up fully to previous Young Vic Christmas shows for kids, David Almond’s tale of a disgruntled dad and his daughter who enter a flying competition across the Tyne is a pretty good seasonal start for all five year-olds upwards.
It’s beautifully staged, too, by Oliver Mears, with a splendid ramp for the take-offs – no hi-tech, over-elaborate flying nonsense as in the ill-fated Spiderman show in New York – even if the music by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys is lazy, nothing special.
An edge of disappointment is guaranteed, too, by the show’s presence in the Maria studio, not the main house (where The Glass Menagerie continues), but the theatre keeps faith with this Tyneside parable, first work-shopped around the time of the great staging of Almond’s Skellig by Trevor Nunn, and since re-drawn as a short story.
Dad in pyjamas, who can’t remember what work he used to do, wants to fly like a bird. His daughter Lizzie is at first critical, then cooperative. Aunt Doreen wants them to eat her dumplings and keep their feet on the ground. Headmaster Mr Mortimer Mint starts out as a spoilsport but soon grows wings of his own as a tinfoil silver wizard.
Mears’s production, beautifully designed by Giles Cadle, has a clutch of winning performances by David Annen as the crow-cawing Geordie dreamer, Charlie Sanderson as his daughter, Paul Bentall as the headmaster, Tracey Wilkinson as the aunt and, especially, Sam Cox as Mr Poop, the convener of the race, who plays sideways on with the audience as both compère and wicked uncle. If only the songs were better...