Leeds Playhouse – until 28 December 2019
Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams
Elf 30046 (Lladel Bryant) gets left behind by Santa and the Christmas fun begins for all at the Leeds Playhouse. Leeds Playhouse’s production of The Night Before Christmas is a delightful piece, full of fun and silliness, with moments of wonder and the chance for the children to interact with the cast.
Carol (Alexandra James) doesn’t like Christmas, she keeps telling us it is silly, she rejects the carol singer and then her neighbour Roger’s present of Christmas pudding and custard. But it is her house that Elf 30046 has landed in and their adventures trying to find Santa make her realise that Christmas is rather wonderful after all!
Elf 30046 of course only speaks some sort of Elfish and Carol is deaf so signs all the way through and her language is simple, which means that this is a very inclusive performance. The actors’ use of gesture and facial expressions and limited language make it ideal for young children and the youngsters who were in the theatre yesterday loved every minute of it and were enthralled from start to finish.
Lladel Bryant plays Roger and Elf 30046, but I don’t think the children in the audience realised this! He makes the most wonderful Elf, full of curiosity, mischief and fun and he had the children in the palm of his hands. This was a very visual performance and just what was needed, I was laughing as much as the children. I have to admit though, that when they hadn’t found Santa in time and I thought he was going to die, my heart was breaking!
Alexandra James is a super Carol, at the beginning it was oh so clear that she was a very lonely and unhappy lady and it was a delight to watch her have fun with Elf 30046, become his friend and to care for him. Again this was a very visual performance but the highlight was Alexandra’s wonderfully expressive face and eyes.
Leeds Playhouse recommends this for 3-7 year olds and they have pitched it absolutely right. The plot is simple to follow and very visual, it zips along at a good pace and there is lots of fun, oh and there are one or two bits for the grown-ups too! At just under an hour it is exactly the right length and would make a brilliant alternative to the traditional Christmas panto for younger families.
It was a treat to watch this performance and to listen to the youngsters guffawing with laughter, my Christmas has now begun!