Mary Gapinski and Toni Frutin demonstrated their skill at creating an inclusive and friendly environment for the under fives during last year’s Tron show, The Night Before Christmas. Their return this year with Christmas Time follows a similar template, relying on their connection with the young audience to relate a gentle story that explores the secular meaning of the festive season.
Setting out their stall quickly - a sing-along with actions, an impressive set covered in clocks and a steady pace - Gapinski and Frutin have fun with the simple material. As janitors entrusted with the countdown to Christmas, they try to save time by missing a few ‘unimportant’ tasks. When these turn out to be essential, they involve the audience in the rescue of the big day.
Writer Lisa Keenan keeps the plot light and straightforward, and the duo never overplay their characters. They keep the show running like clockwork, despite the occasional stage invasion from enthusiastic spectators, and have fun acting out the montage sequences of their work.
Gapinski and Frutin pitch the level perfectly - neither pandering to the children, nor trying to make too big a point. Christmas Time is elegantly low-key, a fine antidote to the mania of the pantomimes.