Writer and director: Olivia Race
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
The stockings may be hung by the chimney with care,
In the hope that St Nicholas soon will be there,
But Saint Nick seems to have fallen asleep in the chair,
And it’s up to two elves to get the sleigh in the air!
This is the premise for Front Room Productions’ Christmas alternative for the very young theatre-goers. Based around Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem of the same name, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a 45-minute interactive show aimed at three to seven-year-olds.
Elves Holly and Ivy (Olivia Race and Ashleigh Cordery) must save the day with the help of the children. With Santa Claus snoozing away in the armchair and with just hours before the big night, the elves use the poem as a checklist to help make sure everything is prepped as it should be. Race (who is also writer and director) is the clumsier elf, Holly, trying to make amends for her shortcomings assisted by Cordery, Ivy, who keep things ticking along while strumming her ukulele. The show is bookended by the appearance of Santa himself (Mick Liversedge) who begins the recital of the poem only to fall asleep, and remain snoring for the vast majority of the show!
Race uses certain words or phrases of the poem to spark a new problem for the bumbling elves to solve. It is a nice device to allow an exploration of different North Pole problems, but it is a device that quickly wears a little thin. That said, it does allow wriggly children the chance to get and move as and when they are enlisted as extra helpers. And a catchy refrain played on the ukulele allows us to feel part of the team with the loveable duo. There is comedy in discovering that Father Christmas has actually become too fat this year to fit down the chimneys and so must go on a lightning speed exercise regime – encouraged by the children – as they all chant at the man in the red suit attempting a few sit-ups. There is also a lovely set piece of alliterative verbal dexterity with an alphabet song whilst labeling the presents about the children and the a-z of what they will receive. It deserves more musical backing other than a few chords to accompany the witty labeling of the twenty-six presents.
Whilst I am sure the young audience bought entirely into the premise of the endeavours of Holly and Ivy, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas could do with having a little more story and heart to reach out to the grown-ups too. Much of the audience interaction (such as a mini reindeer race with four children) doesn’t serve anything in the story nor is it particularly exciting. A few basic rules for performing to a young audience seem to be missed also. As Santa, Liversedge gets caught up with answering with the more vocal children at the top of the show destroying any performer/audience boundary. And during the handing out of glitter as magic dust, there hasn’t been any thought in how to cover the time this takes. However, there is a nice touch after the show as the children are invited to meet Santa for a picture and sit on his lap – a commercial and expensive business at most shopping centres at this time of year, but an added bonus with this show.
Reviewed on 23rd December 2018 | Image: Contributed