Sunday, 13 December 2020

REVIEW: The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas at The Charing Cross Theatre

The festive season is upon us and as we head towards the end of what has been an unusual and extraordinary year, the need for some Christmas fun is more relevant than ever. This December such an event arrives at The Charing Cross Theatre with the festive family show, "The Elf who saved Christmas!" Before arriving at the theatre, I pass by the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree and the London lights putting me in the festive spirit. This jolly atmosphere continues to the sound of festive hits from Slade, Dolly Parton and Band-Aid as you take your seat. 

From my arrived at the theatre I was reassured by the safety measures the theatre are adhering to in social distancing times. My temperature was checked outside before being encouraged to apply some hand gel. Masks were kept on throughout the show whilst seats and rows were spaced out for extra safety. 

The set of a sofa, rocking horse and side cabinet created a cosy wintery abode vibe with a backing screen adding to the scene. One child was so excited about the set that the second their parent wasn't looking he managed to rush onto to stage to have a go on the rocking horse. From the start, you felt that a happy environment had been set up as an appealing festive treat for children.

The show is a Christmas Elf two-hander with Neil McDermott playing the effervescent Figgy opposite Gina Beck as enthusiastic Cupcake. Neil and Gina met 20 years ago and the friends not only star as the two elves but they wrote the show too, adding an extra charming quality to the show.

At the start of the performance, we meet the jolly elf Figgy who tells us about general elf life before we meet his friend Cupcake who is so happy that she wishes everyone and everything a very "Good Morning" when she wakes up, from the rug to the sofa. This fairy-tale level of joy is soon halted when the prominent calendar on stage is turned from November 30th to the 1st December scaring Cupcake into a quivering wreck reduced to hiding under a blanket. She has developed a fear of Christmas and the pressure that she could potentially forget a child when delivering presents. The concept of an elf being scared of Christmas seems as odd as hearing the Easter Bunny goes into hiding on Easter Week or that The Tooth Fairy is anxious about molars. Immediately the audience are intrigued as to what has caused this affliction.

Figgy makes it his mission to help Cupcake remember why it's important to hold on to the importance of the festive period and reminds her of the joy it brings to the children. Through this mission, we discover that despite his cheery disposition Figgy is hiding the sadness that he has lost his elf powers. With the help of video clips showing children answering questions about what they love about Christmas, the elves are reminded of what makes this time of year so special and important. Throughout the show the screen displays some impressive clips including an insight into how the elves work their magic when quietly coming down a chimney and secretly depositing presents to children as they are fast asleep, dreaming about ripping the gifts open the next morning. 

The show is very interactive encouraging children (and enthusiastic adults such as myself) to clap, stamp, dance and mime along. This inspires imagination and creativity with the children being asked to act out smelling a warm mince pie or making snow angels out in the cold. Contemporary references were added too to make the show seem more relevant. From flossing to mentions of Tik Tok and even a magical version of an Alexa called Elphaba. I feel this is a good technique to keep children interested in the story rather than being stuffy and predictable. 

Music plays a big part of the show from some musical numbers to a chorus of "Ding Dong Merrily on High" from a video recording of a young choir. It felt slightly towards the end that the story came to a quick ending in order to make way for a mini-Christmas concert of festive classics that weren't necessarily relevant to the show but saying that it was a welcome fun ending that makes the whole audience smile. A particular favourite was "Must Be Santa" with some fun descriptive actions from a long white beard to eight reindeers leading the sleigh for the audience to join in with.

Overall a delightful festive treat with superb enthusiastic performances from the two performers wearing fabulously appropriate red and green outfits. Nothing quite highlights the success of a family show as much as seeing a child struck with the wonder of the Christmas magic on stage. 

Catch this festive treat at The Charing Cross Theatre until December 23rd

Review by Myles Ryan

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: P1 | Price of Ticket: £25

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