Emma Boor, Euton Daley and their amazing creative team have conjured up a smash hit! The bright red, Christmassy programme of Winnie and Wilbur shows the two irrepressible characters from the series of books by writer Valerie Thomas and illustrator Korky Paul zooming through the air on a broomstick in all their exuberant, high-spirited glory. And this sparkling new production for 2-7 year olds brings them to life in joyful technicolour.
Those of us who loved having the excuse of taking children and, in my case, grandchildren, to Emma’s shows at Pegasus Theatre, especially the wonderfully incompetent Betty Bumble, knew this theatre outing would be a highlight of the festive season, and it didn’t disappoint. Being given a wand on entry set the scene for the magically interactive experience we would shortly be treated to and we were soon swept off on trips to the sea bed, the moon and the North Pole before landing back on earth in time for Christmas.
Written and produced by Emma (Winnie) - who also designed and made the fabulous puppets - with infectiously bouncy music by co-lyricist and musical director, Hannah Rhodes (Wilbur) and inventively atmospheric set design by Nomi Everall, the show was fast-paced and tightly directed with great dash and style by Euton Daley. The performances by Emma, Hannah and the versatile and charismatic Alex Kanefsky (Jellyfish/ Seal/ Space Rabbit) were also outstanding.
The capacity audience was kept enthralled from the opening scene where Wilbur, played with deliciously feline charm by Hannah, was ‘mewsing’ about his Christmas present list to the final rousing conga by the cast and puppets. The script kept galloping along with witty wordplay and lots of audience participation. When Winnie asks the audience where she can find some wind-up mice with pointed noses for Wilbur, a little boy suggests ‘Try a shop!’. When a love potion is accidentally tipped on an audience member, Alex Kanefsky’s amorous French jelly fish invites him back to his ‘underwatta cave of lurve’ with hilarious results. When Winnie asks the audience for help with finding Wilbur, we have to learn how to say ‘abracadabra’ backwards. Afterwards, I asked audience members what they liked best about the show and most said ‘Everything!’. One mother added ‘It’s amazingly original – fantastic music!’. One little boy loved the puppets best and a little girl was most thrilled by‘Seeing the cat’.