The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE LITTLE BOY THAT SANTA CLAUS FORGOT for The Scotsman 22.12.14. _________________________________________________________

4 stars ****

ON STAGE at the Arches, Mr McGregor is not happy.  Two years running, his little friend Johnny, the newspaper boy, has had no Christmas presents.  And somehow, Mr McGregor seems to be responsible – so much so that in disgust with himself, he cancels Christmas altogether, leaving the world to languish its way through long dreary winters without so much as a drop of festivity to relieve the gloom.

It’s not ideal for tiny toddlers, this latest Arches Christmas show, written by Oliver Emanuel and directed by Gareth Nicholls, and playing until 4 January; the themes are a shade too substantial, the acting too intense.  For its advertised age-group of 3-5 year-olds, though, The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot offers a rich feast of thought and feeling about Christmas, and about how Johnny finally has to step in and help, to make sure that the old midwinter magic works again.

Claire Halleran creates a crumpled domestic set – Mr. McGregor’s living-room – that also seems magically linked to the turning of the year.  There’s a puppet sleigh with souped-up diesel engines, a map of the world that magically pops up from the floor, and a superb central performance David Ireland as the grumpy, tormented Mr McGregor, full of guilt and self-doubt.  And by the time Ireland and Alasdair Hankinson, as Johnny, break out into a final song-and-dance chorus of Sleigh Ride, the young audience are on their feet dancing too, full of the joys of a Christmas that’s not only a gift from the adult world, but something that they – like Johnny – might one day be able to help create, for themselves.

ENDS ENDS

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