Bah Humbug types should steer clear of this charming and extremely festive production, as it will make you feel Christmassy. Three generations of us enjoyed the show, which centres on Alby, an albino penguin who is teased for being different, but who finds Santa's lost Good List at the South Pole and has to journey bravely across the globe to get it back to him before Christmas is cancelled.
My three and a half year old was definitely on the younger side of the intended audience, but the show is very carefully thought out to suit smalls. Two performers and a host of puppets bring to life a snowy world and Santa's workshop. The theme - that being different is good, but sometimes hard - wasn't laboured. Santa's beard was genuine, the songs were good, and no-one had to sit still for long.
The kids were involved in lots of aspects, including some panto-style calling out, dancing a penguin dance, distracting a naughty albatross, singing, and sorting presents. These came at the right sort of interval, and were carefully managed so no-one got too excited. It was really good at not working the kids up, but getting them to watch thoughtfully. Even getting to meet Santa at the end, there was no present giving, just the opportunity to say hello. Perfect for the little ones who are already finding the emphasis on presents rather tantalising!
The ingenious set meant that more and more elements got revealed from their snowy coverings, to bring a colourful world to life. And I loved the creative use of unlikely items as props, not least the albatross who appeared to be a paint roller with wings. That kind of make believe, where you can see the bare bones through it, is somehow much more engaging than with some ultra high budget performances, both for children and adults. That's where the real theatrical magic takes place.
Wholehearted endorsement from all of us then, just as long as you're ready for the Christmas spirit to be well and truly unleashed (and for your little one to keep singing that "there's no time for slacking" for some days afterwards). If your children are a little bit young for panto, this is a perfect (dare I say better?) alternative!