Christmas Tales – 2020 (Review – Online)

Christmas Tales – 2020 (Review – Online)

No, I haven’t put the wrong date in the title; let me explain. Tales From The Shed is Chickenshed’s ongoing series of shows for the very young which play regularly at the venue and in other pop up iterations (it’s even been at The Old Vic). During the pandemic this morphed into the online Tales TV and then remorphed back to live performances with a planned extended run of shows over the festive period. Then exactly one year ago yesterday came the news that theatres would have to close again. By then Christmas Tales had been videoed and the company were able to release it online. Fast forward twelve months and it’s like we’ve never been away with theatres shutting left right and centre as infection rates soar. The latest edition of the live show is running currently, alongside two others – they’re always busy bees at Chickenshed. But there will be those who for whatever reason can’t get to the venue or are taking extra precautions at this precarious time and, as it slipped through my personal net a year ago, I thought I’d give this version a whirl. Hope that makes sense, now on with the review.

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The show is an upbeat melange of singing, dancing, movement, jokey sketches, mime, puppetry, performers in animal costumes and so on. I assume the content follows a familiar pattern for those who enjoy a regular dose of this particular entertainment. Certainly, there are cheers and cries of recognition as characters like the dancing Dodo (pronounced Do Do as opposed to Dough Dough) and the laid back Lion Down appear. Opportunities are provided for some physical exercises and stretching (a reminder of the Joe Wickes phenomenon in early lockdown) and even a few moments to learn some rudimentary sign language. The whole thing is held together (sort of) by a couple of tales which run throughout. The first concerns a puppet creature known as the Blurgh who, isolated in lockdown, is searching for company. The other involves Santa’s concern with getting all his orders out on time – social distancing regulations mean he’s had to commandeer the South as well as the North Pole. As part of this element a couple of his reindeer pop up and form a double act though one of them is more interested in busting some moves than getting present deliveries sorted (this is Dancer, but I’m sure you saw that one coming).

Fortunately, there is a live audience for the recording and it’s the sort of children’s show that needs one as the performers respond to the audience’s reactions. As they are very young – the show is aimed at ages 0 – 6 years, they are indeed pretty vocal. Dialogue is, naturally enough, kept simple and much of the show is purely visual with lots of bright colours and energetic movement from the participants. While the show doesn’t involve multitudes of performers in the usual Chickenshed mould, they are representationally diverse and there’s integrated sign language and subtitling to ensure that everyone is catered for. Also, as it’s broken down into a number of sequences it’s easy enough to watch in sections if concentration is lacking – the whole thing lasts about 45 minutes.

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Hopefully the current live version won’t become a victim of closure but if it does it’s good to know there’s this recording to fall back on. And if you’re looking for Christmas fare for older children, the company has plenty to offer here too including versions of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (review here), Rapunzel (review here), Sleeping Beauty Dream On (review here) and Peter Pan which all readily accessible. Wishing everyone at Chickenshed a happy festive season and a productive 2022.

Christmas Tales 2020 is available on Chickenshed’s You Tube channel – click here. Various editions of the original editions of Tales TV are also available via Chickenshed and Scenesaver – click here

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