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Swallows and Amazons

This musical adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s iconic children’s adventure story was the first Christmas offering at the Bristol Old Vic from artistic director Tom Morris on his arrival from the National Theatre four years ago. Since then there has been a West End transfer, a national tour, a More4 television documentary and now this seasonal return to Bristol.

Morris has recently been in New York directing the controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer at the Met, but he has found time to make sure this new version again captures the magic of the sailing exploits of six children holidaying in the Lake District between the wars. Its great strength is in using the power of imagination – of both the children and the audience – to conjure explorers, pirates, savages, distant lands and mortal enemies.

Along with writer Helen Edmundson, Morris’ team have come up with a wonderfully inventive – and fun – series of props, framed by a spirited score from former Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon. There is the occasional deeper moment, too, with Stuart McLoughlin, the only player returning from the original production, moving from childhood to the edge of being an adult as the skipper of the good ship Swallow.