Christmas shows are often a child’s first experience of theatre, so their value on that score can’t be underestimated. Alongside its family panto, the Nottingham Playhouse continues a fine tradition of running a fresh take on a familiar story for the very youngest patrons.
It’s an endearing tale of kindness, gently told. The shoemaker is cold and hungry because her shoes aren’t selling. She’s missing her friend, Wilhelm, and that’s making her sad as well. Hazel Monaghan and Terry Haywood play both the narrators and the bobble-hatted elves, nightly producing glittery shoes that are also full of sweets to offer the children.
There’s lots of repetition and alliteration to build up the story, like the tick-tock of the clock and the crackle and crash of the storm, created by a whirling, tasselled umbrella and the patter of audience hands. There’s fun and nonsense with a baguette fight and children can join in with familiar nursery songs.
Coaxing from the stage visibly draws in the shy ones as well as the bold, which is a lovely thing to witness. However, it’s weighted just a little too far on the side of gentleness and tameness, with scope for a further injection of magic.