This production by Flintlock Theatre is a must-see for 3-8 year
olds this season. It provides a welcome diversion from the usual
Christmas pantomimes and provides food for thought for little ones.
The BT theatre was transformed into a tailor's shop, with the audience sitting on the floor on comfortable cushions and rugs. The two actors interacted with the children individually before the show officially started, offering them to chance to try on hats and jackets, and asking their names which nicely set the tone and helped relax some of the younger children.
The show tells the story of Anna, a little girl who lives with her mother in a post-war environment and their efforts and patience to get a new coat made. There were plenty of comedic moments and it was a very funny show; my four-year-old was in fits of laughter at several points, and there were lots of songs and music and great sound effects.
It was poignant to see how the mother-daughter bond shielded the negativity of the situation. For example, the mother distracts the child from the meagre reality of her meal of one tiny potato by playing 'I spy'. She sells her precious things (necklace, lamps) without batting an eyelid so that a new coat can be made for her daughter. The resilience of a mother, the trust that a child places on the mother, and the effort a mother makes to shield her child from trouble is communicated in a subtle but effective way. Whilst one feels sad that the pair are living in poverty, one also delights in their relationship which overcomes the daily struggles and turns everything into an adventure.
These feelings of warmth are made possible by the two actors of the show who are outstanding. Both are adults who perform multiple roles, including that of a child, with ease and believability. They have an amazing chemistry with each other and were also very likeable to the children. They interacted with the audience at several points, including asking them to help pick berries, find the hidden precious items and give out (fake) candles. These interactions kept the children alert and interested for the entire hour, meaning there was little fidgeting and most kids were deeply enthralled. My son loved watching the journey of making the coat, from the wool being taken off the (toy) sheep, to being spun, weaved, and then sewed (it was quite an interesting lesson in textiles for me). Something so simple as making a coat totally engrossed the audience, and the final product in its glory hanging in the wardrobe in the centre of the stage brought applause.
I would recommend this show as the one to watch this Christmas, it is thought-provoking, hugely entertaining and warms the heart! It is recommended for 3-6 year olds but I think older kids would also appreciate it - as would adults! After the show on reading the programme I realised it is based on a book, and my son is now keen to read this. I asked him what he would rate the show as we were leaving and he said straight away, ten out of ten, and I wholeheartedly agree! Go see this!