Writer and Director- Francesca Renee Reid
Composer- Edward Court
Ignore the promo: this fun, sweet and endearing family show has absolutely nothing to do with 17th Century Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp. Although the production is reportedly inspired by Avercamp’s ‘A Winter Scene With Skaters Near A Castle’, we spend less than ten minutes by the castle (which does admittedly undergo a very effective scene change) and there is a single reference to skating before we are whisked into a much more conventionally Christmassy show. So it’s not quite the ‘life inside art’ the pre-show voiceover suggests: the painting is more something that goes into the mix of influences.
Francesca Renee Reid’s plot borrows liberally from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe more than anything else, so liberally at times you hope the lawyers aren’t on the phone. A variety of woodland creatures, ably played by Kieron Providence, Jaydean Cramb and Madeline Hagerty, meet Frederick and Maaike (Ciaran McCormack and Elizabeth Coverdale) to aid them in their quest, singing catchy tunes about being brave, resourceful and thinking with your heart, not your head. All put in strong performances, with Providence’s Badger the strongest both in character and performance.
Edward Court’s score is one of the highlights of the night, and all cast are strong singers who sell both the songs and their characters to the audience. A few sound issues, however, mean at times these have less impact than one would assume. Some actors are inaudible sitting four rows back, their sound levels seeming to go up and down depending on song. As the songs are very necessary to keep a restless young crowd occupied through, occasionally too long. pieces of dialogue, this is a shame, but hopefully just a problem on press night.
The undoubted star of the show however is Engelberg (Richard Holborn): a pantomime villain for the ages. Receiving the best song, the most boos and the majority of laughs, Holborn’s portrayal is a delight and a firm favourite with both the target audience and adults. That being said, the production does well to cater to children and parents: neither party’s attention is ever lost, with plenty of jokes that will go over the heads of tots but also moments of wonder that will move even the Scroogiest adult. The beginning takes a while to get going and the ending is too abrupt, but who cares when you’re having so much fun?
Although it might not be as related to art as the setting may suggest, Picture Perfect Christmas is a little treat of a Christmas show. Packed with songs, laughs and loveable characters, it’s a heart-warming and magical piece performed by an exceptional cast.
Runs until 23 December 2022