reviewed at the Avenue Theatre, Ipswich on 9 December
“When she is good…” Red Rose Chain tends to run to the extremes of the little girl in the rhyme, but this Christmas show deserves high marks. The Grimm Brothers’ story of the elves who come to the rescue of an old shoemaker is adapted and updated by director Joanna Carrick and has an imagination-stirring set by Carrick and David Newborn.
We are in the small town of Elvedon (which does actually exist on the Suffolk-Norfolk border). The central character is Elvira (Emma Swan), who yearns to update her father (Ryan Penny)’s outdated styles and stock, which scarcely attract a single customer.
Her best friend is Frank (Darren Latham), a baker by trade, though one much exploited by his employer Mrs Battenberg. She is also pursued by the brash, know-the-cost-of-everything son of the ruthless Esmeralda Overdrive. Between the Overdrive shopping Mall and fashionistas, Lovelace Shoes is on its last legs.
That’s until the titular elves arrive and overnight make up one of Elvira’s designs. Then the shop bell starts ringing again – and so do the tills. Penny and Latham play the elves and all the grind’em’down characters, which necessitates some very quick costume changes.
Of the “nasties”, Esmeralda and her imitation pop-star son rival Battenberg in the unpleasant stakes. Never were custard-pies more properly placed! The elves too receive their just reward in the shape of new outfits which will enable them to train as Santa Claus’ helpers.
It’s not too long for the smaller audience members and has a script which makes literate sense for the older ones. There’s a gentle bit of audience participation but that (and the custard pies apart) it’s all mercifully free and pantomime gags. As I said – top marks!
Five star rating.
The Elves and the Shoemaker runs at the Avenue Theatre, Ipswich until 31 December. Performance times vary, so check with the theatre’s website:www.redrosechain.com for seat availability.