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Review: The Elves and the Shoemaker, Red Rose Chain, The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich, to December 31

PUBLISHED: 15:18 10 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:18 10 December 2017

Ryan Penny and Darren Latham in Red Rose Chain show The Elves and the Shoemaker. Photo: Bill Jackson

Ryan Penny and Darren Latham in Red Rose Chain show The Elves and the Shoemaker. Photo: Bill Jackson

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If you haven’t sent Santa your Christmas list yet, pop tickets for this festive-fuelled fairytale on it first.

Emma Swan and Darren Latham in Red Rose Chain show The Elves and the Shoemaker. Photo: Bill JacksonEmma Swan and Darren Latham in Red Rose Chain show The Elves and the Shoemaker. Photo: Bill Jackson

Inspired by The Brothers Grimm tale, this is everything you want from a seasonal show. It’s funny, charming, clever, heartwarming and at times wonderfully anarchic with adorable, deplorable and outlandish characters and loads for all ages to enjoy.

Stuck in his ways Norbert and his daughter Elvira struggle to make ends meet at their down at heel shop, Lovelace Shoes. That changes when elves Fred and Alf use leftover materials to make one of her more daring designs. If only they could do something about Elvira’s insufferable boyfriend Engelbert too.

Writer and director Joanna Carrick clearly enjoyed every second of embellishing the short story, which she first fell in love with via the 1970s Ladybird book. She’s smartly crafted it into a rom-com with the addition of Elvira’s baker best friend Frank, forced to admire her from the sidelines.

Emma Swan as Elvira and Darren Latham and Ryan Penny as the elves - among others - make the most of the striking set. The whole design, by Joanna and producer David Newborn, is marvellous. Hats off the entire production team. You really feel like you can pick up a new pair of shoes on your way out.

So too is Joanna’s original music, arranged by Emma. The elves’ opening song in particular left us beaming ear to ear. Toni Peach’s choreography adds to the fun. I’ll never be able to watch Riverdance again without tittering.

The cast are amazing and having a female protagonist at the heart of everything was great. The kids near us sat spellbound the whole time, no mean feet, sorry, I mean feat. I would’ve liked to have seen a smidge more of the elves though.

The level of audience interaction was spot on. As Elvira and others reminded us - tongue in cheek - this isn’t a panto. The way they got little ones involved was a delight. I was a little jealous to not be called up, especially when the play’s three villains got their comeuppance.

Balmily brilliant characters, an engaging story, delicious gingerbread - Christmas has officially started.

Read my chat with the cast and Joanna.

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