Father Christmas, Birmingham mac - review and pictures
Outside the mac theatre, a Christmas craft fair is in full swing while inside, the auditorium doors shut, the lights dim and consumerism is shut out for a magical 60 minutes.
Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas covers a couple of days in the life of the red-suited one, starting on Christmas Eve when he wakes to the none-to-welcome realisation that he's got a heavy day ahead.
The charm of this story is that Santa is pretty grumpy about the prospect of having to whizz around the world delivering presents, although he warms to his task as the day goes on. Meanwhile it's 'bloomin' this and 'bloomin' that, his crankiness aimed mainly at his cat and dog.
The tone is set early on by Santa's visit to the outside toilet when we see, though the gap under the door, his pyjama bottoms fall around his ankles. The top of the half-door swings open revealing our hero reading holiday brochures while the accompanying sound effects send the young audience into delighted giggles.
This may be a one-man show on paper but Santa is not alone. He is joined by a family of puppets - his cat and slipper-eating dog, and two life-size reindeer, all expertly manipulated by other members of the team in a completely unobtrusive way, despite them being in in full view of the audience.
The cosy, colourful set is another source of engagement. Full of retro features like whistling kettles, wireless sets, chamber pots and the like, it also has knobs and handles that are pulled or pushed to reveal other parts of the story.
The sound effects are carried out by a member of the company in full view of the audience. It's a great touch. Sitting in a den above the set, she tips water into a jug in front of a microphone as Santa pours himself a cup of tea below. She makes the sound of a match being struck, the gas being lit and, yes, the toilet acoustics. It adds another intriguing dimension to the whole enchanting experience.
Runs until December 30.