Birmingham Repertory Theatre
London, Peacock Theatre
5 December 2012
One way to escape the blues of the Autumn Statement was to ignore the economy altogether and fast-forward the seasons into the heart of winter with a trip to The Snowman. Late middle-aged Mr Watts (and that’s being kind) loved it but 4-year-old Monty felt that it lacked a certain something. “Where are the vampires”, he asked in the break between sucks on the straw emerging from a fruit burst bottle although, after the break, he decided that Jack Frost was actually one of the undead and about to sneak a bite from James, the little boy who walks in the air with the snowman. “Why doesn’t he bite the snowman? “ I asked. “Don’t be silly”, said Monty, knowing full well that a vampire biting a snowman would be like sucking ice water from his fruit burst bottle.
Feeling confident that Monty is unlikely to read this, I can say with absolute certainty that there were no vampires in The Snowman, just as surely as I can say that politicians no longer know their seasons (since when has autumn been on the fifth of December)! At least Monty has the excuse of only being four, not to mention that The Snowman has outlasted a whole generation of politicos: George Osborne was barely out of college when its unbroken run of Christmas seasons began at The Peacock Theatre in 1998, a time when Tony Blair was still young and believable. But Robert North’s Christmas treat shows no sign of aging. This matinée was packed with children having a few older people in tow, and everyone was having fun.
This show is so surreal that a Christmas vampire would not have been out of place amongst the dancing fruit, including a banana jumping out of the fridge in sunglasses, a United Nations of snowmen having a party at the North Pole and Santa Claus dancing with a penguin. “Santa Claus has a friend called Rudolph”, shouted Monty and sure enough – as if on his cue – three reindeer (although apparently crossed with chipmunks in some bizarre laboratory experiment) joined the party.
I was beginning to suspect that Monty knew more than he was letting on, particularly since he pointed out that there was no giant mouse in the kitchen scene and the Scottish Snowman was actually a girl! I wasn’t too sure about the mouse but he was definitely right about Scotty (take a bow, Hannah Flynn, enjoying her seventh season in the show). However, Monty’s undoubted favourite was the character everyone else booed: the villainous, virtuoso, and yes, vampiric Jack Frost; an effervescent, efficient and efficacious effort from Northern Ballet School graduate, Adam Denman (who earned his keep by doubling up as a coconut when not being Jack). If Robert Pattison ever drops out of the never-ending Twilight series and Monty has anything to do with the recasting, then Adam is a dead cert to be the new R-Pat. But then Monty’s mum is called Eve.
I doubt if there can be a better Christmas show in the west end than this timeless interpretation of Raymond Briggs’ classic book with its memorable Walking in the Air theme song being visualised through some seamlessly clever flying effects for the Snowman and his young companion. A clever set design (by Ruari Murchison) brings the whole enterprise into life without any undue fussiness.
Monty’s mum warned me that there was no way her little boy could last a whole show without needing several visits to the little boy’s room and yet he didn’t have to go once. In fact, he never took his eyes off the stage. He might have been looking for vampires and giant mice but an enthralment that surpasses the call of a four-year-old’s bladder has to be the very best recommendation of all.
I owe Monty an apology! He is only 3. Mind you he is as big as 5 and and as sharp as 15. G