It’s been a quiet week on the LWAT front, thanks to a little touch of stomach flu. But I’m all better and we have been adventuring again. Today’s destination – Theatro Technis, for the “Happily Ever After” show, a Christmassy fairytale fest.
I haven’t been to this theatre before – it’s close to Mornington Crescent but for the sake of sticking to the Victoria Line, we just walked up for King’s Cross. In some ways, this was a wise plan because by the time you’ve changed at King’s Cross, you might as well have walked to Camden anyway. Just to get out it involved three lifts and a mid-corridor breakdown when I wouldn’t let Eva pet a guide dog. But we triumphed and emerged at exactly the right exit, to find a swing:
King’s Cross continues to be full of surprises.
Obviously, there were also ways in which this was not so wise. Like the way the plan meant walking up Pancras Rd, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t designed for pedestrians. We had something of a hairy crossing over a taxi lane and several other lanes of traffic. But then we spotted the very lovely and unexpected Old St Pancras Church:
See….full of surprises. And then a park full of sculptures which reminded me of niknaks:
And our eventful walk brought us to the theatre, which doesn’t look much like a theatre from the outside but a sign directs you to the box office and once inside, it’s a charming wee place. It was all decorated for Christmas and elves greeted us as we went in. Eva was a little shy with them and didn’t want to chat but when they started dancing in the foyer she grinned and then joined in. She can’t resist an opportunity to practise being a “balla-ina”.
There was a little bit of space for buggy parking (I’ve learnt to fold the pink one now, but didn’t have to) but it seemed that most people there were slinging it anyway, with an exciting and unusual variety of slings. I had a sneaky look and at least one seemed to be a wrap conversion mei tai but I couldn’t work out which wrap. The lady wearing it was also breastfeeding so I hope she didn’t think that’s why I was staring…
We moved through to the theatre area and there were seats for the grown-ups and cushions on the floor for the kids. Eva moved between both areas, and occasionally stood up as well but it didn’t seem to be a massive problem. The cushions were level with the stage, so the kids could get really close to the action, which Eva liked but the scarier moments had her scurrying back to my lap!
The basic set up was a group of Santa’s elves who had a magical fairytale book. The
plot device North Star made the stories come to life and so we had three plays-within-a-play – “The Elves and the Shoemaker”, “The Girl and the Winter Whirlwind” and “The Snow Queen”. The last one has obviously been popularized of late but it’s a different take on the tale – the Snow Queen is no cuddly Elsa. But we’ll get to that. First off, the “shoes one”, as Eva calls it…
There’s a unifying theme to all the stories and that’s to do with the strength of love and kindness. This first tale is a gentle and uplifting one - there’s no baddie as such, and it’s about the elves doing something kind for the shoemaker and the shoemaker returning that favour. Eva mainly just liked the shoes – she is a bit of a shoe connoisseur. She also thought the elves were very funny and kept giggling as they rolled through the snow. I loved the shoemaker and his wife – I have no idea how old the actors were but they were very convincing as elderly people (and when you’re so close to the stage, you can see all the make up tricks). Eva also called out “It’s magic!” as the elves made the shoes dance with their glowy fingers. The finger glows were used a lot but they were pretty cool and really effective.
The next story concerned an eternal winter and a plucky girl who goes out into the cold to try and stop it. I’m suddenly seeing where CS Lewis got his inspiration from! Eva found it a “bit dary” but liked the animal puppets that helped Rose out after she fell asleep in the snow (If I remember rightly, the Sadlers’ Wells book reference this story when Veronica is struggling to get to her audition…you see, it permeates all my favourite childhood books). Father Frost’s palace was nicely done, and there was a lovely effect when he invokes the sunshine at the end of the story. There were bits which were on the dark side, but again love triumphed.
All of which set the scene for “The Snow Queen”. It had some similarities to the previous story, not least of which was the reappearance of the frozen palace (but you could hardly expect something different). The undertone was again quite dark, and the Snow Queen actually a little terrifying. I think Eva was on my lap for most of this one. Some people might struggle with the way that the Queen had no chance for redemption but toddlers won’t so don’t worry too much about that. They just want to see Gerde melting people’s hearts with her glowy red fingers. Again, love and kindness beat anger and bitterness…and all in time for the arrival of Santa!
It was a lot of plot to fit into 75 minutes – each tale requires a fresh bit of concentration and a lot of the kids were asking who someone was or what was happening. But that’s standard fare for kids’ shows, unless you have the obvious appeal of a big brand name character. I was wondering how Eva would take this more low-key show after Peppa Pig last week, but I think she enjoyed both in different ways. It was certainly gentler and more intimate than Peppa. There was a wistful kind of magic around the whole production and Eva often squealed with delight.
There were a few blips here and there – the odd line which felt like it was in the wrong order or a minor technical hitch – but generally it was very smoothly done and there was an amazing number of scene and costume changes for a small space and cast. Actually the cast was much bigger than I expected – I thought it would only be four actors like some of the other shows we’ve seen but I think I counted eleven. There were some beautiful costumes and make up effects, especially in the elves’ sparkly eyes, and the cast were lovely and enthusiastic. At the end, the kids were all invited onto the stage to meet the characters and give them a hug. Eva forgot that she was shy, telling Santa that she wanted a George toy for Christmas and hugging the Snow Queen. Then she played with the fake snow and the snowballs:
The stage invasion at the end really did enhance the show, as all the kids loved interacting with the characters and set. Sadly we only had ten minutes as we had a lunch date with Auntie Claire and her dino friends so I had to drag Eva away a bit. But she had a lovely time and it was a great show. It was wintery, a bit Christmassy and tinged with elven magic. It wasn’t as brash as the last show we went to, but it was certainly charming and a perfect Christmas treat for preschoolers. Just be prepared to hug them a bit in the moments of mild peril…
Disclaimer: I received free press tickets for “Happily Ever After” in exchange for the review. All opinions remain honest and my own.