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The Elves and the Shoemaker review at Avenue Theatre, Ipswich – ‘delightful and uplifting’

Scene from The Elves and the Shoemaker at Avenue Theatre, Ipswich Scene from The Elves and the Shoemaker at Avenue Theatre, Ipswich

Love is all around in Joanna Carrick’s delightful The Elves and the Shoemaker. It’s just sometimes, as Elvira the shoe maker discovers, we can’t see it for looking. Frank the baker clearly is in love with Elvira. But Elvira is, inexplicably, crazy about Englebert, who though he may be rich, is no Prince Charming.

This festive three-hander for Red Rose Chain gives great opportunities to the cast who work tightly together as an ensemble. Darren Latham camps it up hilariously as Esme, Englebert’s hideous mother, and Ryan Penny is exceptionally vile as Englebert himself. As Elvira, Emma Swan creates a rounded natural character that anchors the production. As she says, with a wink: “It’s not a pantomime – it’s a Christmas play.”

The show is given a vintage feel via the set and costume designs of Carrick and David Newborn. These help create a warm nostalgic glow from the offset. The script’s humour, which often contains a very precise bite, reiterates Carrick’s hopeful message that good things can and do happen to good people and love, generosity, kindness and tolerance are not just for Christmas.

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Delightful, uplifting Christmas play for a family audience