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The Night Before Christmas

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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People are always saying that the West End theatres should be livelier in the day time, and it’s good to see that several of them are hosting seasonal shows this year for the toddler age group, targeting that buggy buck.

But none has gone quite so far as the Ambassadors, which has rolled over to host this agreeably slipshod “entertainment”, which is no more than a glorified gig in Santa’s grotto – the little stalls bar has been smothered in silver foil and a few garlands – with onstage songs and stories delivered by Father Christmas (John Hester) and his naughty, thigh-slapping Elf (Lizzie Frances, who talks like Joe Pasquale after a few sherries).

The setting is Santa’s workshop – subject, I presume, to elf and safety regulations – where the goblin gofer is stashing some prezzies for herself while getting us dwarfish dudes in the stalls to keep the toy wrapping machine ticking over before the main guy turns up.

He’s a genial, woolly-bearded old cove wearing rimless spectacles and obviously dieting: he seems to be shrivelling up inside the red robes, but he’s full of good cheer and merry tales, notably the one about the lad who goes to the North Pole to discover that Santa does exist after all.

I had no problem at all in singing a rainbow and “Jingle Bells” with all the littl’uns around me, but I passed on the invitation to sit on Santa’s knee in the grotto, even if I might have scored a packet of Play-Doh for my pains. “I love making children happy,” says the old rogue, and I’m not going to spoil it by unleashing my inner cynic.


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