If you have never felt any need to visit World’s End, a quiet district at the end of fashionable King’s Road in Chelsea, then I sympathise, I really do. But if you have always wanted a reason, then I bring you good news. For tucked away inside a building so like a public library that I walked past it twice is the Chelsea Theatre, and this Christmas they have brought to life a wonderful little show that I highly recommend.
Once Upon a Snowflake brings out the best in Christmas, like some kind of magical antidote to tacky consumerism. It is pitched as a show for children (although I have to say I heartily enjoyed it), and for anyone with children aged 6-12, it is well worth taking seventy minutes out of your day to be transported into the mad world of three “Spritologists” and their bizarre hats. Yes, you read that correctly – Christmas cynics rejoice, there are no mentions of Santa or reindeers (red-nosed or otherwise). This is an original take on festive entertainment.
Productions for children, especially at Christmas, can tend to patronise its young audience while relying on innuendo and “adult humour” to reel in the parents. Once Upon a Snowflake avoids these obvious pitfalls, drawing in both with gentle audience participation and a wonderfully imaginative storyline. There are also moments of ingenious humour for both adults and children – such as the borrowing of audience scarfs and coats which were then transformed into puppet animals in a very clever scene.
The actors are funny, talented and very clearly enjoy their time on stage – unhampered by a small audience, they performed with admirable energy, nailing the peculiar, flouncing choreography movement director Karl Sullivan has created for the Spritologists. Particular mention must go to Joseph Hardy, who seems to play an endless range of instruments, layering them all with a loop pedal to play the entire soundtrack live (and making all other sound effects too).
However, the actors are dwarfed by the lighting and sound designers (Nomi Everall and Darren Clark, respectively), who have worked in harmony to create breathtaking moments of shadow puppetry. We are taken to Antartica and taken inside a world of dreams. It is so simple and so complex and set to such beautiful music that these moments – actors offstage, a puppet world unfolding on a projector screen – become truly magical.
In short, London, you need to get your act together. This is such a beautiful little play – understated, simple, imaginative – that it will chip away at even the most bitter Christmas humbug and is sure to delight children of all ages. So dust off your tinsel, swallow your cynicism and get thyself to Chelsea – I doubt you’ll regret it.
Once Upon A Snowflake plays at the Chelsea Theatre until 22nd December.
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