Perhaps the biggest nightmare for theatreland through the pandemic has been the loss of the lucrative festive shows they use to subsidise their riskier offerings during the year.
So, like so many venues the team at Pitlochry Festival Theatre have been forced to offer their seasonal production online, which in all honesty is no replacement for the sheer joy of sitting in a theatre full of overexcited kids with adults in tow keen to relive their youth – all secretly hoping things will go wrong.
It may be no substitute, but a four strong cast deliver a charming half hour show in the theatre’s garden as hapless elves Hari and Lari smash the fourth wall inviting cyber viewers to join a journey as they seek the missing North Star that guides Santa as he gives every kid in the world a pressie.
It’s a lively trip written by the theatre’s artistic director Elizabeth Newman and Russell Beard zipping through a life size advent calendar, and a detour into outer space with some help along the way from Mrs Claus.
The big draw in this production for pop fans of a certain age is Altered Images singer Clare Grogan as Mrs Claus gamely belting out a funky version of Jingle Bells in the Arts Garden where she grows ideas and songs. It’s easy to forget Grogan has an extensive acting CV – right back to her breakout performance in the classic Gregory’s Girl – and she is great fun as the real power behind the sled.
Barbara Hockaday and Ali Watt as the daft elves sing with festive gusto timing the gags well and delivering the obligatory sage advice for the kids without being too preachy. Taggart veteran Colin McCredie is a suitably twinkly Santa who doesn’t get too cross with Hari for nearly ruining Christmas. and as Mrs C points out that everyone makes mistakes, but we are never alone when we do.
This a show firmly aimed at younger viewers as Newman’s fast paced direction means The Magic of Christmas never drags, but the adults will also click off with a big smile on their faces.
The Magic of Christmas will be available online from 9th – 23rd December at www.pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com
It will also be screened in the Cinema at the Macrobert Arts Centre from 11th – 21st December. For tickets visit www.macrobertartscentre.org
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 10th December 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★