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Christmas Round-Up

Christmas Round-Up

Christmas Round-Up cover photo on Stagedoor
Featuring four Xmas shows - for kids and big kids

Oily Cart’s All Wrapped Up (Arts Depot, then at Stratford Circus in January), a gorgeous show for the under-fives, begins before the audience has even accessed the theatre. The cast engage with the children in the foyer and when the moment comes to go into the theatre it is through a sheet of freshly torn paper as if the entire theatre has been wrapped like a giant present and we’ve had to break in.

Inside there is indeed a gift of a multi-sensory show, directed by the company’s new artistic director, Ellie Griffiths, which plays with sound, light and touch to beautiful effect. Some of the seats vibrate gently, at times the air seems to breathe; at others there is gentle spacey music.

All Wrapped Up. Photo by Suzi Corker.

From its opening moments, when a performer removes her dressing gown to reveal the sparkles beneath, the show operates as a series of reveals: just like a present in the process of being unwrapped. Paper is scrunched, light is condensed into circle, shadows appear, a great sail balloons above the audience, sticky tape is used to create a web. The bravest children roam freely through the space driven by curiosity and amazement. This show is full of physical and emotional textures. A true box of delights.

Texture is what is lacking in The Lost Thing (Linbury Studio), a collaboration between the excellent Candoco Dance Company and the Royal Opera House in which disabled and able-bodied dancers, musicians and singers work together.

The Lost Thing. Photo by Stephen Wright.

Given the source material–Shaun Tan’s novel about an overlooked child who discovers a lost thing on the beach and takes it back to the city—this should be rich and resonant. With a touch of the odd too, as if seeing the world from an unexpected perspective. But it’s staged with a strange flatness so that it never feels like a genuinely 3-D experience in a show in which dance and movement, projections and live action collide.

The movement vocabulary for the intriguingly multi-limbed Lost Thing lacks zing and leaves it devoid of personality. It’s hard to connect emotionally, although Jules Maxwell’s score which begs and borrows from many styles is pleasant enough and is at its best when it is most playful. But even the satirical scenes in The Federal Department of Odds and Ends lack comic punch. It’s as if the monochrome city depicted in Will Holt’s video city has sucked the life out of it. A shame because I have loved Candoco’s work in the past and am sure I will again in the future.

Part of the issue with The Lost Thing is that it is way too over-extended, and the same applies to the all-female The Fairytale Revolution: Wendy’s Awfully Big Adventure at Theatre 503. Years ago, the long-disappeared Drill Hall used to stage an all female lesbian panto which was always hoot. Deliciously subversive too.

The Fairytale Revolution. Photo by Helen Murray

This is a rather more staid and lacklustre affair in which Wendy takes her rightful place centre stage (echoes of Sally Cookson’s Peter Pan) and with a cast of supporting characters sets out to change her story (shades of Matilda) and seize back control of the narrative from the all-powerful and despotic narrator. There are some decent jokes, some less than tuneful singing, and game performances all round. But the storytelling is way too convoluted and complicated and the whole thing is in need of a jolly good prune.

Far more enjoyable is Jude Christian’s Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith which also puts women centre stage. Cinders is a girl with a mind of her own who isn’t looking for a prince and would prefer to reach for the stars. Buttons is a girl and one of the ugly sisters (really not a bad pair) falls for her. If that sounds po-faced it isn’t. Tinuke Craig’s production sometimes lacks oomph, but it makes up for it with immense warmth and silliness. I took a friend who hadn’t been to a panto for at least 30 years and professed to loathe them. She was won over.

Cinderella. Photo by helen Maybanks.

All Wrapped Up runs at Arts Depot theatre until 31 Dec and then at Stratford Circus From Jan 17.

The Lost Thing runs at the Linbury studio until Sat 4 Jan.

The Fairytale Revolution runs at Theatre 503 until Tue 31 Dec.

Cinderella runs at the Lyric Hammersmith until Sun 5 Jan.

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

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