From the moment you enter the auditorium at the Lyric Hammersmith Studio you know you’re in for a festive treat courtesy of children’s author and chief Christmas cheer conjurer Raymond Briggs.
The pre-performance playlist may include the iconic music from The Snowman but the Yuletide adventure that follows is not of the icy effigy that tragically melts in Briggs’ other well-known winter tale, but the crimson-clad chap whose job it is to deliver everyone’s presents on Christmas Eve.
The only problem is he’s not very happy about it. Who can blame him, really? While we’re tucked up in our warm cosy beds awaiting his generous gifts, the poor old man has to travel to every house in every country around the globe, all in one freezing cold night.
He may wish he was topping up his tan on a sandy beach in Majorca or Ibiza, but there are children – many of whom are in the audience, judging by the noise – who wouldn’t have Christmas without him, so off he goes on his sleigh, surrounded by colourful parcels and led by his trusty reindeer, to bring joy and excitement to children the world over.
Father Christmas isn’t, however, alone in creating the Christmas magic in this Lyric Hammersmith production. Helping him out is musician Jared Ashe, a one-man band who summons sound effects for everything, from a clock ticking and kettle boiling to the big man’s tuneful footsteps, which he does using a host of musical instruments, everyday objects and even his mouth.
Puppeteer Claire Harvey is also on hand to give life to Santa’s loyal companions, from his sulky attention-seeking cat and excitable slipper-stealing dog to the horned caribous that transport him through the star-sprinkled sky.
In this Pins And Needles adaptation, which is becoming as regular an occurrence at the Hammersmith venue as the bulky bearded fellow’s annual gift-giving routine, every detail has been thought of, with Zoe Squire’s designs evoking quaint snow-topped houses and a magical soaring sleigh that boasts Santa’s own personal number plate.
The play’s title character may not have been excited about Christmas, but the young audience certainly was, with screams of excitement emanating through the auditorium at the sight of presents and giggles of glee erupting at the big man having a bit of a boogie.
All of these elements make for a Christmas show that would leave even Scrooge feeling suitably festive. It’s also reassuring to know that on Christmas Day, after his hard day’s work, Father Christmas sits down, like the rest of us, in front of a plate full of roast turkey and all the trimmings, sporting the obligatory Christmas hat and chuckling at the joke he found in his cracker.