Nottingham Children's Christmas shows 2017 - our reviews: Dear Santa, Cinderella, Black Beauty, Town Mouse and Country Mouse

(3 Posts)
LocalEditorNottingham Fri 01-Dec-17 13:17:09

It's December at last and we're getting into the spirit of Christmas by immersing ourselves in family theatre. Over the next two weeks, we'll be reviewing four of Nottingham's most exciting seasonal productions, focused on entertaining a younger audience. fsmile

Here's a our publication schedule (with the venues' age recommendations in brackets). See our What's On listings for details of each production:

Dear Santa at the Theatre Royal (ages 2-7) - 1st December

Cinderella at Nottingham Playhouse (all ages) - 3rd December

Black Beauty at Lakeside Arts (age 6+) - 11th December

Town Mouse and Country Mouse at Nottingham Playhouse (ages 3-8) - 14th December

Please do add your thoughts and comments, in the thread below.

LocalEditorNottingham Fri 01-Dec-17 13:22:48

Here we go, with our review of Dear Santa.

The Theatre Royal invited us to see Dear Santa on Thursday 30th November at 1.30pm. Our reviewers were a two-year-old, a four-year-old and accompanying grown-ups.

We took our seats surrounded by school groups and excited pre-schoolers, looking upon a very Christmassy set, with twinkly stars above (not real stars, our four-year-old informed me).

Then, at the side of the stalls, an elf appeared. He greeted us, walked up to the on-stage workshop and told us about his job. Santa had just gone out to see the reindeer. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to welcome him back? We all practised shouting ‘Hello Santa’ and timed our greeting perfectly, as the man himself walked in. Santa settled back to work reading children’s letters and, with Elf’s help, finding the right gift for each child.

We moved to a child’s bedroom, where Sarah was putting up Christmas decorations. She talked to us about how much she loved Christmas and how she wrote a letter to Santa every year. This year though, she couldn’t think what to ask for. Then she had an idea. Sarah asked Santa to send gifts to all the children who wouldn’t have anything new at Christmas. She had lots of toys already, after all.

Back to Santa’s workshop and, what a lovely letter from Sarah! Such a kind child must be rewarded and choosing and delivering presents is what Santa does. Santa and Elf puzzled over what to give Sarah. One thing after another seemed to be too small, too big, too messy, too noisy, too scary, then eventually, purrfect.

Sarah, Santa and Elf involved us in their decisions and their songs, throughout the show. There was a lot of emphasis on naming colours, suited to the younger audience members. We all enjoyed joining in with Jingle Bells, shouting out and waving.

The stars may not have been real but there was no doubt about Santa, whose voice, apparel and demeanour were just right. Rather like the gift of a kitten for Sarah (also deemed real, it did mew). Our adults wondered about keeping an animal in a box for so long (but were pleased to see Dear Zoo's pro-dog bias redressed). Our young reviewers were entranced and we all came out feeling happy and Christmassy. Warm, gentle, magical and perfect for under-6s.

MGS, MAS, CS and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham

LocalEditorNottingham Tue 05-Dec-17 15:26:11

Oh no, child-related distractions have delayed us. Have we turned into a pumpkin yet? We think we can still feel the magic. Here's our review of Cinderella

Nottingham Playhouse invited us to see Cinderella on Saturday 2nd December 2017. Our review team were an eight-year-old, his six-year-old brother, their mother and a scribe.

On our way to the Playhouse, our reviewers weren’t quite sure about pantomime. They thought they’d seen one before but weren’t familiar with the usual characters, or expectation of audience participation. Would the Playhouse Panto prove the perfect first experience?

The theatre was packed and festive. A brightly painted curtain rose to reveal a set beautifully bordered with Arendelle-style floral details, Christmassy holly garlands and quite a bit of glittery sparkle. Costumes proved even more fabulous. A chorus of dancing woodland animals set the scene, conjuring a sense of mid-winter magic and reminding us that nature will out, despite human constraint.

Cheerful Buttons greeted us, then left an apple at the side of the stage, asking us to shout out if anyone tried to steal it. Oh yes, ‘Nicker Buttons’ brought him back time after time, as everyone but especially that naughty pair of… sisters, tried to take his fruit. Ugly Sisters Bella and Donna were hideously vain and brutally selfish, though far too busy playing for laughs to be menacing; with John Elkington’s earthy, bantering Bella effectively the show’s lead character. Even their aunt, the Dowager Duchess Devilla, a leopard-print and sequin-covered diva, was more attention-seeking than malicious.

Poor put-upon Cinderella was sweetly, stoically winsome and determined to see the good in everyone. Out collecting firewood, she encountered a poor old lady and, the Prince Charming. As handsomely, dashingly princely as can be, James Nicholson’s Prince Charming really came into his own when singing. As a youthfully relatable, fairytale prince-meets-commoner romantic pair, these two were delightful.

With invitations issued and while Dandini did his bumbling best, it took a silver-toned fairy godmother in a lacy lampshade-like gown to transport Cinderella to the ball.

At the interval, who were our favourite characters? One vote each for Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother. (Mum’s favourite remained Buttons throughout). A dressing-up area with props, in the lower foyer, provided interval entertainment and cute photos.

The second half gave us the ball scene, slipper-testing and finally a wedding. Generously sandwiched between these were the traditional sing-along, children on stage, shout outs, a dance-along and an extended if gently amusing nod to the sponsor.

Throughout, there was a lot of dancing to pop songs; silly, crude but never really rude humour; obligatory put-downs of Derby and Mansfield, plus a set of smaller locales. A very knowing pantomime, full of in-jokes, yet most so simple as to be accessible to everyone.

Were our young reviewers convinced by their panto experience? Oh yes they were! They emerged happy, impressed and just a little bit tired after almost three hours, ready to glide homewards on the top of an NCT double-decker bus (oh yes we did!).

Gently bawdy, friendly, gaudy and lots of Christmassy fun.

OH, HH, RH and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham

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