Every year, Churchill Theatre presents a brand-new adaptation of a classic Christmas story in their Studio. This year’s production is by award-winning puppetry company Knuckle and Joint and is a retelling of the story of The Gingerbread Man. I jumped at the chance to take my three-year-old to see it, and share some of the magic of his first ever Christmas panto.
On arriving we found there was relaxed seating for children on mats at the front of the stage (for braver children than mine), which allowed them to get really involved with the show, whilst adults could sit on chairs at the back.
The story follows two bakers from the royal bakery who bake a magical gingerbread man that comes to life and escapes out of a window. It is chased by the bakers all over the palace and its grounds, to the accompaniment of an impressive original score of songs and music.
Heidi Goldsmith and Bill Uden who play the bakers are skilled puppeteers, joyfully bringing the gingerbread man and all of the animals to life. The performance is fast-paced and a lot of madcap fun, with storytelling mixed with songs and puppetry. With plenty of comedy and laughter, it kept my toddler entertained throughout.
The actors are dressed in green, pink and gold chefs’ outfits that match the sets, offering a riot of colour, and the delightfully crafted puppets fit perfectly with the design. The set is beautiful and candy-coloured: bright peppermint green and pink with gold flourishes, and is really eye-popping and inviting. It has an angry magical oven that spawns the animated gingerbread man and a kitchen island that innovatively splits into parts to form the set for the story. I must say, my son found the oven a little scary and didn’t want to sit near it in case it ate him, but the majority of the other children found it totally entertaining.
Pantomimes are sometimes quite lengthy and a bit much for really little children to sit through but this one is ideal for pre-school children at only 45 minutes long. The energetic pace also means there is always something to watch or listen to, making it fully engaging. This is a real Christmas treat, perfect for a first pantomime and full of the fun of the season.
Written by: Knuckle and Joint
Directed and produced by: Bex O’Brien
This show has completed its current run.