Sunday, 9 December 2018

Christmas fun for the family - part one

There are so many wonderful things to look forward to at Christmas. The food, the parties, avoiding Last Christmas so you are still in Whamageddon (I'm out as of last Friday thanks to Chris Evans !) and of course all the fantastic seasonal shows. My favourite thing has to be taking my family to watch a show that is fun, silly, entertaining and really puts everyone in the mood for Christmas. From all those years ago when I took my younger sisters to watch Christmas Cat and the Pudding Pirates - written and starring Christopher Lillicrap - at the Warwick Arts Centre I knew this was something special. The smile on my Mum's face as she clapped along with the songs and cheered at the good guys and booed at the baddies just made me light up inside. 

We have been fortunate to been to so many great shows over the years and the Snowman is a classic that I'm surprised not to have seen before. I'm pretty sure that Brown Bear saw it with the school when he was 4, but he was kind enough to come along again with his brother. We were invited to watch this production in its 21st year at the beautiful Peacock Theatre just off Kingsway in London. You will know the story of the Snowman I'm sure. The Raymond Briggs story has a timeless appeal and when it was on this afternoon I still burst into tears at the end - as I always do. 

The Snowman features all the familiar music and is a gentle and loving story for the youngest of children to the most jaded of adults (yes I am looking at you Hubbie). It would take the hardest of hearts to be unmoved by the scene where we see the snowman and boy fly together over the stage and when snow falls onto the audience there is an audible gasp. My children absolutely loved this show and I did too. It captures innocent childlike wonder and joy in the simplicity of a short lived friendship. Oh and there is a very special character you will know who they see at the North Pole too. 

If your children are a bit young for pantomime this will appeal as it's just the right length of show with an interval for ice cream (or comfort breaks) and there isn't dialogue to follow or jokes to understand. All in all the magic of Christmas is captured perfectly in The Snowman. 

Pantomime is a specifically English phenomenon - so much so my son's Irish teacher had never seen one until last year and I was shocked. I love the silliness, the camp and the overall sauciness of pantomime and love to take my kids to see it. Last week I went to watch Cinderella at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. The good fairy is played by Lesley Joseph and I was so looking forward to seeing her as I last watched her as Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein and she was fabulous in it. Joseph has comedy chops and as the 'name' in this show she proves she's more than capable of leading a whole show while also being happy to partake in the slapstick side of things. The ugly sisters are wonderful with their over the top outfits and end of the pier humour. Any fan of Strictly will be taken with Claudia and Tess - even though there is a scene that left me shaking with fear so I can't imagine how the younger audience members must have fared ! 

I love the story of Cinderella - it's my favourite fairytale. I mean what's not to like, pretty frocks, a search for love and shoes are the star of the night. Not for nothing was the Slipper and the Rose my favourite movie as a young girl. I wish I had taken Brown Bear to see this - I didn't as it was on a school night - as he would have loved all the songs from the Greatest Showman and it finished at a respectable time too. Often pantomime runs on quite late and it's difficult to get any sense out of a tired child the next morning. Mine have been going to theatre since they were very young and adore it. The spectacle, the humour and of course the treats in the interval all add to the appeal of a night out. 

Often pantomime relies on big names stars to carry it off and to bring audiences in. I can honestly say that the cast of this show all are fantastic and while Lesley Joseph is the 'star' this is a genuine ensemble piece. The laughs are shared and there isn't a duff moment in the show. I would recommend this one for a family trip and I fully intend to take both my boys to see this as I could watch it again and I just know they will adore it. 

Disclosure: Thank you to the Peacock Theatre and Churchill Theatre for inviting us to press nights. All reviews are genuine and my own opinion. 

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