Writers: John Woodburn, James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith, and Ben Hales
Director: Kerry Frampton
It’s been a year where it feels like everything we’re exposed to has mainly been someone trying to show off that they’re smart – whether about the pandemic, American politics, British trade deals or whatever else. It’s like a cool iced tonic to be able to experience something innocent, silly, playful and fun without a hint of archness or a bigger message. It takes a lot of work to make something this silly, and it’s been time well spent.
The latest instalment of the Sleeping Tree’s Annual Christmas Living Room Adventure combines the stories of Moby Dick and Dick Whittington (the mayor of old London city town). This massive adventure takes place through the living room, as well as the kitchen, hall and bathroom of a regular house; much like the one their audience will be sitting in to watch this, so participation is definitely encouraged. It’s well oriented to kids (and adults who can still have good clean fun), including useful sections that show how to make living room ships out of couches and telescopes of toilet roll tubes.The trio are in their PJs throughout, and it feels like we’re watching a few nice lads just messing about. And it’s joyful.
To convey this sense of fun, we have some really interesting formatting. It’s panto, it’s Christmas fun, but it fits right into the mould of internet sketch comedy. The experiment in lengthening what feels like a character sketch format into an hour-long show more generally seen on stage is a success. There’s audience participation (throwing balls of paper at the London Mayor on screen among other things) and really is the best of both worlds. (Santa) hats off to them for that; in a year where every theatre company out there has had to go digital, Sleeping Trees really thought hard about the presentation and come up with something that feels fresh.
Splitting about 30 characters among themselves (and assorted body parts from the producer Alice Carter and director Kerry Frampton) the pace is frantic. Their costumes and funny voices separate them fantastically, with enough gags (like Pinocchio’s nose, and the King Rat’s ever-growing list of titles) to keep any kid laughing. It’s all backed by sound and music from co-writer Ben Hales and edited skilfully together by Shaun Reynolds. This hour-long homage to innocent silliness deserves to be a smash any year, and couldn’t be better placed to come in at the end of 2020.
Runs here until 5 January 2020