Review: The Night Before Christmas, Leeds Playhouse

This revival of The Night Before Christmas (having previously played at the then West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2015) is a wonderful festive treat for young people. Written by Robert Alan Evans, and beautifully directed by associate director Amy Leach, this stunning production is unique in how it rejects the cliched, contrived gimmicks, and instead reflects powerfully on the beauty of friendship and kindness, and the magic of Christmas. 

The play follows the chaos and hilarity that ensues when Elf (Lladel Bryant) stumbles down into Carol’s (Alexandra James) home on Christmas Eve. Elf’s joy and festive spirit initially clashes with Carol’s reserved personality and cynicism toward Christmas. Bryant and James are utterly adorable as Elf and Carol, displaying genuine charm and tenderness as they embark on the adventure of forming a new friendship, and begin to learn more from each other. 

One of the play’s strengths is the way the young audience are invited to participate with the action as it develops. Significantly, the production features creative use of British Sign Language (BSL), opening up this show to audiences who are D/deaf but also providing a simple introduction for young theatre goers who may not otherwise have known about BSL. The actors carefully guide audiences, introducing them to specific sign language for words such as Santa, Reindeer and Christmas, adding an informative and educational element to the production that young children can easily take away. This is not the first time BSL has been integrated into a production. It does however make the show’s themes of tolerance, friendship and generosity even more pronounced.

The stunning set (designed by Amelia Jane Hankin) provides a beautiful backdrop to the action on stage. Alongside a starry blue backdrop are multiple ladders and disco balls, as well as light bulbs which extended across the ceiling of the auditorium, drawing awestruck expressions from the entranced audience when lit. The detail is intricate and conjures up a delightfully cosy world full of magic and mystery.

The production is also choreographed brilliantly, with a standout dance number that closes the show, providing the perfect end to this charming and endearing production. Within this show are beautifully poignant moments such as a reflection on the importance of kindness and understanding, as well as a bittersweet emotional farewell which is both heart-warming for adults and kids alike.

Among the spate of productions aimed at young children this Christmas, The Night Before Christmas stands out for its stunning production values, joyful humour and irresistible charm. An absolute must see for all little elves and their families this festive season.

The Night Before Christmas is playing Leeds Playhouse until 28 December. For more information and tickets, visit the Leeds Playhouse website.