The festive season is well under way at the Polka Theatre with not one but two enchanting theatrical offerings for its young patrons. Whilst older children will be frozen by the suspenseful Snow Queen upstairs in the main theatre, down in the Adventure Theatre the vibe is altogether more warm and fuzzy whereThe Night before Christmas plays to young audiences 2-5yrs. Last week myself, my toddler and my five year old went along for some Christmas eve magic inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s much-loved poem.
In The Night before Christmas we join Amber who lives with her Grandad in a small flat. Amber is reindeer obsessed but finds herself lacking Christmas Spirit. So much so that she refuses to spend Christmas with her extended family despite persuasion from her Grandad and a phone call from her Aunty. Why would she want to spend Christmas with her teasing cousins who make her feel small and insignificant?
In the middle of the night she awakes to a surprise visitor – the swaggering rude boy of reindeers – Blitzen. With a stereo blasting out from his shoulder, Blitzen is nonchalant about his seasonal role choosing to sulk on Amber’s floor instead. He too has lost his Christmas Spirit and feels undervalued by Santa and his reindeer posse.
Together Amber and Blitzen embark on a festive journey back in time to discover where they lost their Christmas spirits and put the glow back into Amber’s favourite snow-globe. Thanks to Kate Bunce’s clever set design, the otherwise bland setting of a council flat opens up to reveal a treasure trove of intricacies and we are carried along in a comical medley of songs and banter.
With strong messaging about how everyone is important despite their size or their role (‘there is no front without a back’), the show also talks to the importance of family and being together at Christmas.
And yet the story leaves us with a lot of questions unanswered – Where are Amber’s parents? Why has she ‘had a bad year’? Wouldn’t she be better off living with her Aunty? These nuances were not lost on my perceptive 5 yr old who spent the rest of the evening conjuring up elaborate backstories.
Even with the unreconciled storyline, this is a charming 50 minute escapade for little ones with an easy to understand plot and lots of audience participation. Amber’s enthusiastic performance keeps energy levels high in a script that might other wise lose pace. Jack Kelly’s Blitzen provides comedy and dry humour in needed contrast to the sugary innocence of his opposite.
Little ones may find the absence of a real life appearance from Father Christmas a bit of an anticlimax, albeit he does appear briefly as a miniature carried by the actors through the audience on his sleigh. However this is more than made up for by the unexpected flurry of snow at the end of the show which had the very young audience on its feet and wide eyed.
Overall The Night Before Christmas is a heart warming and solid piece of children’s theatre that will get small ones thinking of Christmas in a more meaningful way, beyond the emphasis on gifts and commercialism.
A festively wholesome way to escape from the frost and cosy up with your preschoolers this holiday. Don’t forget to plan for time in the Polka’s wonderful play area and family friendly cafe.
The Night Before Christmas runs at The Polka Theatre until 14th January 2024
Age recommendation : 2-6yrs
Cast And Creatives:
Lighting Design – Aaron J Dootson