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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Godwin’

For the second year running, the most original and enjoyable Christmas show in London hails from Bristol. Last year it was Swallows & Amazons from the Old Vic; this play with music (no, it’s not a panto) is from the Tobacco Factory, in a co-production with Travelling Light.

Similar folk tales exist around the world, and this adaptation is a mash-up, with the German (Grimm) and Chinese one’s to the fore. It’s darker and quirkier than what we’re used to. Ella’s mum dies in childbirth and her dad soon after he marries his obnoxious second wife, who has a son & daughter rather than two daughters. Ella first meets the prince – a twitcher – in the forest and a flock of magical birds replace the fairy godmother. The wicked stepmother puts her son in a frock for a second chance of bagging the prince as a son-in-law and the slipper becomes a rather cool jewel-encrusted boot.

It’s a little slow to take off, but when it does it charms you. Two multi-instrumentalists, Brian Hargreaves & Adam Pleth, provide a superb soundscape, music and songs. Katie Sykes design is shabby cool, with trees made from plywood, a lot of large paper lanterns & a mirrorball and everyone wears Doc Martens. The costumes, particularly the ball gowns of the step-mother, sister and son, are great. Sally Cookson’s staging has echoes of early Kneehigh – creative, minimalist, captivating.

The five performers play all roles (and birds) brilliantly. Craig Edwards is as nasty a step-mother as you could wish for, Thomas Eccleshare is a terrific nerdy prince (who handled the audience’s impromptu but inappropriate panto interruptions with wit and aplomb), Lucy Tuck & Tom Godwin take the step-sister and step-brother on a journey from nasty to nice and Lisa Kerr is a sweet tomboyish Ella.

This is far too good for kids; get yourself there pronto.

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When I heard edgy playwright Anthony Neilson was doing a Christmas show for the Royal Court – their first – I thought they may well have lost the plot; but I couldn’t resist taking my 10-year old godson and as much as I like traditional things like panto, this is such a breath of fresh air, and so Royal Court!

Holly wants her real dad (who she’s never met) for Christmas but Santa keeps ignoring her request so she hatches a plot to ensure he takes her seriously and what unfolds is positively surreal. Her step-dad is a dog, her real dad inhabits a Teddy (or is he?), Santa’s son Bumblehole comes in through the skylight whilst Santa uses the traditional chimney. In the second half, Christmas keeps repeating itself until the spell is broken and all is revealed.

Neilson’s trademark absurdity is all over it, but it’s as accessible to youngsters as it is fun for adults. Miriam Buether’s set and costumes establish the tone brilliantly and the performances are all excellent. You can believe Gabriel Quigley’s Mum is daft enough to marry a dog, Amanda Hadingue is a deliciously batty Gran, David Sterne combines grumpy and cool as Santa and it’s impossible not to love Tom Godwin’s hapless Bumblehole. Anchoring it all, though, is a superb Holly from Imogen Doel (her professional debut no less!) who captures the contradictions of teenage years so perfectly (something tells me Neilson may well have teenage kids, so good is this characterisation). Even Nick Powell’s songs sound surreal!

A wonderful alternative to panto that the 58-year old and the 10-year old both loved in equal measure.

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