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The Forest of Forgotten Discos! review at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester – ‘energetic and inclusive’

Paislie Reid and Sophie Coward in The Forest of Forgotten Discos!

On stage and screen, Christmas tends to look a certain way: twinkling tree, glistening turkey, picture-perfect nuclear family. The new seasonal show from Contact and writer Jackie Hagan recognises that, for many audiences, that’s not the reality. For nine-year-old Red, Christmas is just her and her dad, and she likes it that way. When things begin changing, she runs away to the forest – home of forgotten teddy bears, neglected technology and a disco ball that has stopped turning.

The Forest of Forgotten Discos! is meticulously inclusive. It acknowledges families of all shapes and sizes, while its creative signing makes it accessible to D/deaf audiences. And with puns for the grown-ups and fart gags for the kids, Hagan’s script strains to include all the family. Character names like Bear Grills and Bear Minimum raise chuckles from bigger members of the audience, while the little ones are kept involved with dance moves and games.

It’s hard, though, to be everything to everyone. At times, plot and dialogue stray into complexities that may leave younger spectators baffled and fidgety. Narratively and stylistically, meanwhile, the show is a strange mash-up – Toy Story meets teddy bear’s picnic meets disco. Katharine Heath’s colourful set and costumes are similarly eclectic: a peculiar but oddly charming mix of sequins, clashing patterns and repurposed rubbish.

While there’s lots to like, the performance often feels a bit flat, especially early on. But the energy of the cast wins out by the end, leaving both characters and audience boogying under the Christmas lights.

Verdict
Contact and Jackie Hagan’s family Christmas show is a festive mash-up with mixed results

Production Information

Production
The Forest of Forgotten Discos!
Venue
Hope Mill Theatre
City
Manchester
Starts
December 11, 2018
Ends
December 23, 2018
Press night
December 13, 2018
Authors
Jackie Hagan
Director
Nickie Miles-Wildin
Set
Katharine Heath
Sound
Mel Paget
Costume
Katharine Heath
Stage manager
Mel Paget, Lynsey Akehurst
Production manager
Alex Willy
Cast includes
Paislie Reid, Sara Cocker, Ali Briggs, Marcquelle Ward, Sophie Coward
Producer
Contact Theatre
Running time
1hr