Review Raymond Briggs Father Christmas Tobacco Factory Theatre – Show Streamed online throughout December 2020
Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas, has been a much-loved children’s book for generations. Part of its magic lies in its lack of words, allowing Briggs’ magical pictures to tell the story. There’s a depth to the character in those illustrations, fleshing out and making Father Christmas far more than the two dimensions we get in most children’s stories. And, of course, he has a slightly flawed edge to his character, at times appearing a little short tempered, much like a very loved but easily annoyed bloomin’ grandad.
It’s no easy challenge taking on and adapting such a loved story the stage, but this is what Pins and Needles Productions have done in association with Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Tobacco Factory Theatres.
What we get is a faithful adaptation with beautiful puppetry and enriched with an onstage musician and Foley artist.
An exceptional creative team made this a truly magical show, which had the additional challenge of being theatre presented through film.
Zoe Squire’s design was like an advent calendar of exploration. Little doors peppered around the set opened to other countries. Christmas parties could be spotted through windows as Father Christmas climbed across the roofs of tiny buildings.
Set above the action was Musician Stacey Ghent, providing a musical backdrop and impressive range of vocal and Foley sound effects for the action on stage.
Puppetry was a huge part of bringing the show to life, with socially distanced Toby Manley and Peyvand Sadeghian creating the characters of Dog, Cat and the reindeer.
Santa’s sleigh bursting out of the shed led by two dancing reindeer was a joyous moment. Their tumbling feet directed skywards was an incredible effect with George Ogilvie’s lighting.
Marcus Hendry was the big man himself, who pottered about his day with the bumbling cheerfulness of a retiree, before taking to the skies with a sleigh full of presents and clambering down chimneys, a feat which renders the awaiting glass of milk doubly disappointing.
This was a fab show which translated well as a digital stream. You can feel the heat of the red coat, smell the aroma of the Christmas dinner and sense the freezing icy swirl in the misty sky. A piece of uplifting Christmas theatrical magic to end a truly terrible year.