I didn’t even realise there was a theatre in the National Gallery. It’s a surprisingly comfortable and intimate theatre tucked away in the Salisbury Wing. You are immediately welcomed with an utterly delightful photo opportunity – a chance to be a part of the beautiful painting that has inspired this entire production.

Credit: Holly Hooper

The play opens with a beautifully festive set by Jill Wilson including the snow-capped pink castle taking its inspiration from the painting itself. The castle then transforms into an enchanted woodland as our heroes (Ciaran McCormack as Frederick and Elizabeth Coverdael as Maaike) must find their way home after being trapped by the evil Engleberg (brilliantly played by Richard Holborn), a fiendish icy foe with awful jokes determined to keep his land in perpetual winter. Who can save them from eternal winter? A band of wise woodland folk, obviously, and a plea to the big red suited man himself.

Credit: Holly Hooper

It is definitely a children’s show with the classic interactions of a panto but without the innuendo or smut to appeal to the adult audiences – and that’s fine. It doesn’t need to; it sits beautifully in family theatre. The one hour run time makes it suitable for tots to teens. There was a clear relaxed nature to the audience – this is a place for your family to cheer and boo and sing along. The story has a clear emphasis in children’s empowerment throughout with songs such as ‘small but mighty’ and ‘be bold and brave’ giving the message to children about believing in themselves. The characters of Stag and Father Christmas talk about big emotions and the importance of pausing before taking action.

I was impressed by the costumes: Engelberg’s make-up and costume is a glittery delight, and Squirrel’s autumn leaf tale has a lovely woodland touch. Stag’s regal golden antlers and star-patterned dress exude warmth and pride. There is clear attention to the costuming which I really appreciated.

Credit: Holly Hooper

Though the piece is said to be inspired by the painting, there isn’t as much of the painting in the piece as I would have expected. Though we start in the world of the painting, we are then transported to a winter forest, and the storyline continues from there. Frederick, Maaike, and the townsfolk’s clothing could be out of the painting, and a throw-away line about mending some ice skates, a tenuous link to the title of the painting, is there, but that’s where the painting’s influence seemingly begins and ends. Some information about the writing and design process in the programme would be a nice addition. It is a lovely, well-executed Christmas tale but could have used any Christmas/vaguely wintery painting as its starting point.

Credit: Holly Hooper

Edward Court’s music is delightful; the songs are incredibly catchy and this allows the audience to join in some lovely harmonies from McCormack & Coverdale. Don’t miss out on a chance to enjoy the rest of the National Gallery before or after your show. The paining itself is in Room 16 if you are interested in seeing the inspiration for this very sweet piece of theatre.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply