It's Christmas and theatres are bringing out their festive treats. But if you're bored of pure panto you could take your little ones to be delighted by an old saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams. Bagpuss and his friends are joined by older and younger versions of his owner, Emily, and plenty of audience interaction for all the boys and girls.
The dolls are brought to life by the Emilies 'playing' with them, and though at first our brains stubbornly rebelled against the idea that Bagpuss wasn't really alive but the product of a child's imagination, after a while we forgot that Yaffle had a hand moving his head and that the mice were heaving objects through mid-air only with a spot of human aid. The actors also mimic the voices well, and there's a particular thrill in hearing the high-pitched choral singing of the mice.
The show is actually three of the old episodes stitched together: the ballet shoe, the Hamish and Uncle Feedle's rag doll house. The songs and stories surrounding each found object are recreated by the Emilies using exquisite props in a set that constantly produces surprises. The concept of older Emily revisiting her childhood after her father dies will probably be lost on the kids in the audience and is fairly tangential anyway, but it does create an almost unbearable moment of sadness at the very end.
This is a genteel production that captures the slight otherworldliness of the original TV programme. It is lushly beautiful and, as far as we could tell, kept the children mesmerised. When it comes to Bagpuss, we - like Emily - love him.
Bagpuss is on at the Soho Theatre until 9th January, tickets £13.50 adults / £11.50 children / £40 for a family of four. For more information see the Soho Theatre website.