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Red Rose Chain welcomes The Elves to The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich, this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 15:05 10 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:22 10 December 2017

The Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill Jackson

The Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill Jackson


It’s not Christmas without a visit to Red Rose Chain’s The Avenue Theatre. We spoke to writer and director Joanna Carrick and actors Emma Swan, Darren Latham and Ryan Penny about The Elves and The Shoemaker.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill JacksonThe Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill Jackson

Q: Tell me about the show...

Darren: There’s a shoemaker and his daughter aren’t doing very well, can only afford the material for one more pair of shoes. Something mystical and magical happens and the shoemaker wakes up the next morning and finds a new pair of shoes which they sell straight away and then can afford more materials. They decide to wait up one night to see who’s making them and see the elves in tatty little costumes. So they make them little suits which makes them happy, breaks the spell and they go off and...

Emma: Be celebrity Santa elves... When we were doing some workshops with the children they were like “and the shoemaker he...” I was like “actually guys, this is a bit of a girl power show. Elvira’s got a real passion for making quite fabulous shoes that aren’t, to quote the play, boring black leather shoes. And my dad Norbert, played by Ryan, can’t abide her designs and doesn’t want to take a chance on this. But the elves might be in favour of her. A bit of sparkle might enter the shop. We’ve got a bit of a rom-com going on as well, a love triangle.

Ryan: There’s a kind of Gaston character called Engelbert. She’s fallen in love with this terrible materialistic, egotistical self-centred guy and there’s lovely young Frank who works in the bakery next door...

Darren: He’s absolutely besotted with Elvira.

Emma: They’ve been best mates for years and she Elvira just can’t see it.

Ryan: Every time I come into the shop I’m just awful to him, knocking him over to give her a hug, licking spoons. He’s not like that deliberately. She loves me, I love myself, Frank loves her and the elves don’t like it.

Joanna: The Brothers Grimm story is so short... so it was quite exciting because I had to make up a story, really to embellish it, coz that little shoemaker and then the elves then they make them suits and that’s it basically isn’t it, whereas that’s not going to fill in a whole evening, so Elvira’s the kind of protagonist of the whole story. I worked it all out while we were doing As You Like It; I was sitting in the back on a picnic table. We cast it near the end of As You Like It; when I actually came to write the dialogue I had their voices in my head. I think this show’s got a really good story, you’re really on the edge of your seat wanting to find out what happens next.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill JacksonThe Elves and the Shoemaker, adapted by Jo Carrick; Red Rose Chain's Christmas Show. Photo: Bill Jackson

Q: What feel have you gone for...

Joanna: 1950s fairytale, so it’s got a retro feel but it’s very fairytale and fantasy as well. They talk about the shop being there for 100 years, it’s very down at heel, so although its 1950s it still looks like a Dickensian shop. Elvira just wants to push the boundaries... the shoes are right out of the 1970s, extremely wacky but they kind of work. It does hang together in a weird fairy tale way.

Q: You each play multiple characters...

Emma: I play Elvira the whole way through.

Darren: I’ve only got four this time.

Ryan: I’ve got five. I had one of the least amounts in As You Like It so this is my punishment. Every one of them in brilliant because they’re all so different; balmy brilliant.

Q: Rehearsals sound fun...

Ryan: Really fun. I did Treasure Island last year which wasn’t as Christmassy, but this year I’m just flooded with festive spirit. We did the Christmas fair dressed as elves and it just felt really magical. This is going to be a really exciting year.

Darren: Every time the elves come on stage it’s just bonkers.

Joanna: We’ve managed to get through so much in such a short space of time which is fortunate because, technically, the show is not straight forward. We’re really going for it with the set.

Ryan: The imagination is just limitless with these guys... they look at an empty room and go “what will we fill it with” and just come up with all these amazing ideas.

Here’s my review of The Elves and The Shoemaker at The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich, December 7-31.

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