RAYMOND BRIGGS’ FATHER CHRISTMAS
based on the book by Raymond Briggs adapted by Pins and Needles.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Courtyard Theatre) Quarry Hill LS2 7UP To 11 January 2014.
Runs 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 December.
A colourful delight for up-to-6s, with inventive theatricality.
Any child up to 6 who can sit in a chair and watch for 50 minutes must surely enjoy this. On a stage illustrated with the vivid colours of Raymond Briggs, an urban roof-and-chimney-scape stretches behind the innards of Father Christmas’s rather rudimentary home as he wakes to realise it’s that time of year again.
So he does what any worker would, washing in chilly water, using the privy, and, along with his cup of tea and breakfast, sees to his fussy dog and self-possessed cat.
Then it’s on with the Yuletide Motley – delightedly recognised by the young audience – and off to the reindeer. Morning rituals completed, he sets off in a spectacular visual moment, seated in his sleight, reindeer pawing the air, seeming to take flight.
He makes his way along roof-tops and down a chimney or two with presents, until the job’s done and he can go home, back to his eager dog and still self-possessed cat. And back to bed, finally sleeping again, his satisfied cat curled-up once more on the bed with him.
West Yorkshire Playhouse has tapped into the theatrical energy that’s been emerging for several years in Bristol and Bath, where Tobacco Factory Theatres and Bath Theatre Royal’s Egg have developed, with local companies such as Pins and Needles, innovative theatre for young people. Companies from the area are energising Christmas theatre around the country.
Of the three people on stage, only Seamus O’Neill’s bluff, common-man Father Christmas is acting in the conventional sense. But without his cat and dog, his home would be nothing, and without puppeteer Annie Brooks they’d amount to very little.
Yet, of the elements carefully calibrated in Emma Earle’s production, most striking is Naomi Lee Schulke, prominent to one side in a tower, visibly creating a range of musical and sound effects.
Anyone knowing Sam Walters’ visible stage management creating spot-on-time sound effects for Feydeau farce in-the-round at Richmond’s Orange Tree theatre will have a sense of the way this enhances theatre’s physical storytelling – while the rage of effects is, if anything, more surprising in this delightful production.
Father Christmas: Seamus O’Neill.
Musician: Naomi Lee Schulke.
Puppeteer: Annie Brooks.
Children’s Voices: Pollie Jackson, Leo Mercer.
Director: Emma Earle.
Designer/Illustrator: Zoe Squire.
Lighting: George Ogilvie.
Composer: Lucy Rivers.
Musical Director: Tomas Gisby.
Puppets: Max Humphries, Cheryl Brown.
Dramaturg: Adam Peck.
Associate director: Lucy Doherty.