When an audience member breaks out into a spontaneous rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the closing of a theatre performance, you know you have found something that really captures the Christmas spirit.
Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas, playing at Lyric Hammersmith’s Studio throughout the festive season, features a Father Christmas who is slightly lacking in Christmas cheer as he prepares for his annual delivery service. “Bloomin’ Christmas again!” he states as he wakes up on Christmas Eve. Oh, ok then ...
But this is a show for children (the guide says under 6s) and although Mr Christmas is somewhat cantankerous, a good cup of tea — or a bottle of brandy — and some festive love from his animals (a puppet dog, cat and two reindeer, all expertly man-handled by puppeteer Claire Harvey) soon get him on his merry, if rather chaotic, way.
Barry McCarthy makes for a pleasingly ruddy and rotund Father Christmas, but the real star is musician Jared Ashe, who spends the entire 50 minute show on the roof of a 'house'. Playing clarinet/bass/saxophone throughout, he also serves as a live foley artist, providing the sounds for Santa’s toast buttering, hair brushing, match lighting and kettle whistling.
Spontaneous snow, clever use of silhouettes and a simply charming sleigh ride make it a visually, as well as audibly, accomplished performance — especially commendable considering the minute size of the Studio it's staged in. Christmas Eve might have been a pain in the butt for Father Christmas, but we loved it.
Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas is at Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, London, W6 0QL until 4 January 2014. Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 for under 16s and £7 for nursery/school children. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.