Gomito Production’s latest show Catching Father Christmas is playing at ArtsDepot’s this Christmas to audiences four and above. Amy (Catriona Mackenzie) is always finding herself in trouble despite all she wants to do is help. Her biggest dream is to one day become an elf and help Father Christmas with the toy making, although she isn’t very good at making them. She set’s a trap to catch Father Christmas as he comes down the chimney, but it’s not him she catches and it looks like she will be doomed to the naughty list this Christmas if things don’t turn out right.
Featuring a host of characters that come to life, from a Russian Spy-speaking Christmas Tree, a treasure stealing puppet Pirate to a duvet Snow-Man who can’t melt, Catching Father Christmas is fun, imaginative and performed by a young but enthusiastic ensemble with live piano accompaniment.
As Amy, Mackenzie whittles through most scenes in her girl-like qualities that are superbly reflective of young, naive children. She is a strong leading performer for Catching Father Christmas. The two Santa Helper’s, Sophia Sibthorpe and Stuart Conlan offer thoroughly engaging performances, not only during the show but also before and during the interval as they roam the audiences talking and laughing with the children. Conlan’s particular attention to bringing the fun and adventure into the story, along with his puppetry skills should be commended.
This production does however come with some faults which sadly let the enjoyment fade momentarily during the first half. Richard Smith’s writing is crammed packed with characters, actions and small moments in the first half of the show that even for a slightly older child such as myself I struggled to stay focused. Some scenes come across as too-text heavy, and Amelia Bird’s direction doesn’t always allow for the audience to keep up before moving onto the next stage of the adventure. Whilst the characters are inventive such as the patrol of stockings on the staircase, it does little to hold our attention and the performers struggle to bring about the scene to any justification.
Saying this, there are some wonderful characterisations such as the Russian-inspired Christmas tree on wheels which delighted the children, and of course the Pirate. Whilst the configuration of the ArtsDepot studio sometimes made it difficult to always see the puppets, they are a great asset to the show. A particular pillow fighting scene between the Pirate and Amy is directed magically and brings about bursting smiles from the audience. The second half greatly lifts Catching Father Christmas away from the over-whelming beginning, allowing for character developments and a warmer glow of the Christmas spirit and joy to manifest.
Gomito Productions may have won me over by the end, but it’s a shame that the first half lacked the magic that the second presents. Overall an enjoyable show, but make sure you take a child above 4 to really get them to enjoy the story and the puppets in this inventive story-telling experience.
Catching Father Christmas is playing at Artsdepot until 2nd January 2011. To book tickets, see their website here.