Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS



The Night Before Christmas.

  Adapted and directed by Kirsty Budding. Budding Theatre. Courtyard Studio. December 13 – 17  2016

 Reviewed by Peter Wilkins 

 
Director Kirsty Budding has created a charming and simple pre-Christmas treat for all the family. The Night Before Christmas opens with a Narrator (Robert Shiells) about to recite the familiar Christmas poem until he is interrupted by a meddlesome Mouse (Matilda Saddington), who is far from quiet, and four sleeping teenagers more intent on video games and T.V. shows than visions of Sugar Plums dancing in their heads. In the twinkling of an eye, the Present is hurled into the Past and the guiding hand of Innocent (Oliver Durbidge) charged with the task of teaching the young Time Travellers that virtues of a bygone era Christmas was a time of compassion, cooperation and love.
 
Yarno Rohling, Caitlin Addinell, Shelley Robb,Joshua Nicholls
From the very beginning as we enter the theatre to the sight of flashing lights on the Christmas Tree and the sounds of Christmas Carols ringing through the Courtyard Studio, the Spirit of the Yuletide Season hangs merrily in the air, and a large audience claps and laughs in glee at the unfolding of this delightful Christmas tale.
It would be unreasonable to judge The Night Before Christmas by more professional productions. Director, Kirsty Budding provides an excellent opportunity for young performers to develop their skills through out of school holiday entertainment. This is the perfect vehicle for performers from eight to eighteen to learn new skills, practise existing ones, mentor younger performers and learn from more experienced performers.
Oliver Durbidge as Innocent in The Night Before Christmas

That is not to say that this performance is not disciplined, committed, entertaining and tightly directed by a director who understands young people and ensures the best possible opportunity and guidance. Holiday productions have long been a training ground for promising, talented performers and crew and young people with a passion for the theatre and a desire to be a part of the community and build their confidence while having fun. The Night Before Christmas fulfills these aims and offers a delightful, simple and engaging entertainment for family and friends. Budding has a keen eye for quality in performance and production amd every one of the two casts who perform on alternative nights are fortunate to learn under the tutelage of Kirsty Budding and her theatre company.
Brenton Cleaves as Simkin and Austen Saunders as The Tailor

Children’s Theatre and Literature are traditionally vehicles for morals and lessons in model behaviour.  Budding’s adaptation of the classic Christmas poem is no exception. Flung into the past
Beth (Caitlin Addinnell), Lucy (Shelly Robb), Charlie (Joshua Nicholls) and Timothy (Yarno Rohling)learn that the values of the past are as relevant today and they return with a deeper understanding of the true spirit of the Festive Season through the experience of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Little Match Girl and The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. I was less enamoured of The Reindeer Catwalk, although its cattiness and snide attacks on Rudolf in the bright red dress provided humour at the antics and a more contemporary comment on alienation and intimidation. Fortunately Father Christmas  (Marli Haddeill) soon put them in their place.

Youth Theatre is often overlooked or seen largely as an entertainment for family and friends rather than the general public. Companies like Budding Theatre, Ickle Pickle, Pied Piper Productions and Child Players often stage Children’s Theatre productions during the school holidays that demonstrate a commitment, integrity and simple honesty that is appealing, and provides excellent opportunities for emerging actors and theatre workers who may pursue a more advanced interest in theatre. There are fine performances from many of the older and more experienced performers   and already many of them are making a notable presence on the Canberra stage. Budding Theatre with thoroughly enjoyable productions like The Night Before Christmas is providing a platform for future ambitions and production opportunities.  
Gabby Stewart, Charlotte Dale, Olivia Hansson and Natasha
 Brittain
On another matter – there was no announcement about mobile phones or photography or filming during the show. I was not impressed by the member of the audience whose screen was visible on the mobile phone and who held the camera aloof to video a particular sequence in the show. It is distracting and takes away from the enjoyment of others. The pre-show announcements are still necessary, sadly.
Josephine Hunt, Patricia Graham, Robert Sheills, Cynthis Graham
Kirsty Budding is to be applauded for providing opportunities for so many young people to experience the magic of theatre in productions that are entertaining, carefully staged, cleverly directed and performed with flair and passion. The Night Before Christmas is an ideal show to herald in the Yuletide Season with virtuous morals, lots of  laughter and good Christmas cheer. 

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