There is something magical about interactive children’s theatre, as though you have stepped right into the page, or through the picture frame. And that’s the magic of The Brook’s Christmas shows for very young children – they are part of the story, helpers and heroes, this year, along with their new-found friend, ‘The Timid Hedgehog’.
The Brook carves up its great hall into a three-act promenade performance, starting out in the wonderfully cosy Sleepy Corner Tea Shop, where mother and Harry Hedgehog, by twinkling candlelight and between cotton reel tables and apple box chairs, are looking after a poorly, but somewhat flighty, tiny fairy (yes, grown ups, of course she’s real.)
It’s almost time to hibernate – but not before one last accidental adventure that takes us through the magical forest to meet King Badger, his lady friend with a big secret, and the beautiful Tree Fairy, whose balletic antics enrapture the little ones.
There are songs to sing, dances to be danced, and magical things to collect before we can get to our happy ending. Can the children help Harry, and resolve the bonkers badger sub-plot amongst the somewhat ‘Game Of Thrones’ influenced scenery of the third act? Is it all going to end delightfully?
Whoever shouted ‘Oh no it isn’t!’ needs to get over to the Central Theatre for the more grown up traditional panto. This is small, intimate, gentle, truly lovely theatre for tiny souls. The plot’s baffling, but the themes of kindness, friendship, teamwork, empathy, helpfulness and bravery strike a purposeful chord with its audience.
It’s all as warm and lovely as a hedgehog’s underbelly.
‘The Timid Hedgehog’ is at The Brook Theatre, Chatham, until Christmas Eve.
Photo: Anna Morell