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The Timid Hedgehog and the Forgotten Christmas Forest review at Brook Theatre, Chatham – ‘exquisite interactive theatre’

Nina Atkinson in The Timid Hedgehog and the Forgotten Christmas Forest at the Brook Theatre, Chatham. Photo: Jeanie Jean Nina Atkinson in The Timid Hedgehog and the Forgotten Christmas Forest at the Brook Theatre, Chatham. Photo: Jeanie Jean

The Brook Creative Companies have, in recent years, established a strong tradition of fine, immersive, original theatre for very young children as an alternative to pantomime. Using the whole of the auditorium presented in walk-through of other worlds, this year’s show starts in a colourful teashop run by a Hedgehog and her son, complete with an ice-breaking round of Incy Wincy Spider with a new verse added.

Once the audience of tinies is fully relaxed and on-side, we progress through the wood (twigs, ribbons and leaves – well done, Sarah Booth) into the softly lit forest. Abrasive badgers, an ethereal tree fairy and an increasingly less timid hedgehog help us gently and quietly to do what is necessary to release Christmas from the spell it is under. I doubt I was the only adult present to shed a quiet tear at the bells and magic at the end.

It’s brave work that requires all four actors to think on their feet. Talented Miriam Cooper is engaging as Hettie Hedgehog, doubling as the badger which turns out to be something else. Jack Faires is magisterial but avuncular as Badger King and Mark Conway as Timid Hedgehog expertly holds the whole thing together – even when a child does something totally unexpected, as happened at the performance I saw.

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Verdict
Exquisite interactive theatre for young children
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