JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS at the Arches, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 14.12.13.
3 stars ***
WHERE’S SANTA? chirped a little voice somewhere near me, as the story of this year’s Arches show for tiny tots reached its climax; and it’s true that there’s something slightly bleak about a Christmas show – even a short 50 minute one – that tries to tell its story with two actors, when it could so clearly make use a third presence on stage. Written and directed by Rob Evans, The Night Before Christmas is is a classically-shaped Christmas transformation story about a woman called Carol who doesn’t like Christmas, and how she changes her mind after an accidental visit from a large elf who has fallen off Santa’s sleigh.
In the detail of the storytelling, The Night Before Christmas is a slightly mixed show, with moments of confusion when it’s far from clear what’s happening; worse, at the one moment when the audience is invited to join in and help, their enthusiastic yells produce no effect at all. This is also a show aimed very narrowly at children around 3-5, old enough to understand Carol’s social isolation, but not too old to tolerate the show’s simple, nursery-style tone; older and younger kids in the audience seem a shade uninvolved.
The show has a gorgeous set, though, evoking Carol’s super-neat city rooftop home, and allowing for a visually delightful finale when Carol and Elfie have to climb the highest skyscraper in order to get the fast-fading Elfie back home to Santa. Santa is represented, in the end, by a gorgeous little animation of the sleigh and reindeer, projected into the night sky. And with Veronica Leer and Laurie Brown acting their respective hearts out as Carol and Elfie, we’re finally convinced that the seasonal magic has worked, and that Carol’s life – after Elfie has gone- will never be quite so lonely or over-controlled again.