The whole genre of Christmas family shows is, in its core, limited. It has to be a relatable story, kids-friendly, feel-good and enticing into family values. You know the drill.
That is, until Chickenshed comes along.
This years’ Christmas show based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” carol runs through December and early January it is truly amazing.
Don’t you fret though, the play is still all of those things, still relatable and feel-good. The show still possesses all of the ingredients of the Christmas story, but at the same time it is not at all formulated. It is the way the creators reimagined the genre is what makes the difference.
The show’s main cast of four kids sets off on an Alice-in-Wonderland type of trip and learn the characters that inhabit the well-known song and at the same time doing some family history discovery.
The song is transformed into a journey the fantasy land. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” carol is disassembled and each line is carefully re-interpreted and elaborated into a separate story. Every cumulative step of the carol is interpreted through a particular scene and a song with the characters from the line. The journey through catchy tunes is just enough absurd, just enough nonsense – and guaranteed fun.
The best shows, just as the best books are where children are treated as adults, as somebody who is capable of appreciating the good effort and the attention to detail. The hard work and fun is visible throughout the play. It shines through in the smallest of things.
Sometimes it could be the choreography that one would not expect to see on the kid’s show, such as in the scene of “7 Swans a-Swimming”.
At other times it is the two British Sign Language translators on the stage who are not just props, but an integral part of the show. The couple have so much fun with their part, engaging with the characters and the audience and so much drive, that they deserve a show of their own.
Or, perhaps it is the colourful, interestingly thought through stage that easily adapts to every scene by the clever use of vivacious lighting and set up.
Or finally, maybe it is even the effort of inclusiveness at Chickenshed.
The theatre goes out of its way to give a lot of kids a chance to get on stage and participate, to try out acting, including a big number of children with disabilities. There are about 800 performers split into 4 rotas that perform over the festive season. You can imagine how it must mean the world for a child to share such a big project, to be out on the late evening rehearsals and the collective thrill of being on stage.
And you can only imagine the true scale of the play when they the whole cast of that evening gets out on the stage during final scenes, it is thrilling to see that much positive energy. Every performer is exploding with emotion, tenderness and force.
Those of the cast who cannot walk due to a disability are riding their wheelchairs or even carried by other members during the mass scenes. At these points somehow the play transgresses the footlights.
It proves that he whole genre of Christmas family shows does not have to be limited.
It proves that the true belonging, the true state of being found is not just a matter of a Christmas play and some tampering with the elusive feeling of festive longing for togetherness. It is also a matter of everyday life. Maybe not everywhere, but definitely here, at Chickenshed.
As humans, it is great that we can walk, but when we carry those who need our help, then we truly can walk tall.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” at Chickenshed is crazy, imaginative fun. It is truly free, truly liberating and truly inclusive.