Engaging production has audience spellbound

With the season of all things Christmassy upon us, there is sometimes a danger of over-indulging in too many of the sugary treats that only seem to appear at this time of the year.

Similarly some theatres can over-sugar their Christmas shows, presumably in an attempt to leave you with a warm, fuzzy, goodwill-to-all glow that leaves you nauseated by their sticky, saccharine sweetness.

Fortunately, The Nutcracker Prince is a far more sophisticated production. For a show whose target audience is largely children, it never patronises, preferring to engage the audience with its interactivity and enthusiasm.

As they did with Scroobious Pip, writer Andrew Pollard and director Adam Sutherland have created a show that lets the audience piece together the plot and characters from a carefully laid trail of hints and clues.

Audience participation was a given and had my three-year-old daughter and niece spellbound on the edge of their seats when they weren’t drumming, shouting, laughing and throwing giant marshmallows along with the rest of the audience. At one point, Sophie was so caught up in the plot she fell off her chair as she strained further and further forward towards the action!

The ‘goodies’ were an appealing combination of naivety mixed with an edge of pragmatism and a healthy dose of courage. In true pantomime spirit, Leigh Symons’ Mr Attus whipped up the audience into a frenzy of booing and hissing before being condemned to a sticky end.

Subplots and flashbacks were energetically animated by the talented cast of local schoolchildren too many to name here but who collectively deserve a mention.

As usual, Jan Bee Brown’s costume designs were wonderfully creative with hints of camouflage material foreshadowing the conflict to come.

Finally, I can think of no better accolade than my daughter’s comments when I asked her what she thought: “I loved that show – it was very fun. Can we go tomorrow and see it again?”