It’s said that actors should never work with children or animals, presumably because of their unpredictability and the extra work this requires. While usually focused on casting, this must also be extended to working with very young audiences, such as the advised “three to seven” year olds encouraged to see this Christmas offering from Scottish Youth Theatre. Young children, let’s be clear, can’t be guaranteed to provide the responses expected of them!
Using gentle songs and large projected visuals, this is a show which successfully engages its target audience
The scenario, devised by the cast, is simple enough: Tommy (Jai Sharma) is stuck at home with itchy chickenpox, while brother “Big Bad Brian” (Michael Dallas) is heading off for a Christmas party where there’ll be loads of presents, games and food. Apart from his “new pals”—ie, us—Tommy’s only chance of “adventure” is the “secret” snowbird he helped make earlier. Being near Christmas, of course, when we’re led “into the back garden”, this Snowbird (Rachel Still) magically comes alive and transports Tommy and us to the Moon, where we meet a marooned astronaut and his shy alien pal.
It’s all deliberately interactive; the children are expected to help unfurl the Snowbird’s wings, and help her flap them. They’re asked to help pick up a shower of soft meteorites that fall from above. There’s lots of running around pretending to be snowflakes and the like, all of which helps bond the audience as well as hopefully tire them out slightly so they’re not too fidgety. But there’s also some fine, subtler than you might expect performances—especially by Dallas, who doubles as the astronaut quite happy in his lot despite apparently having been on the moon for 30 years.
Using gentle songs and large projected visuals, this is a show which successfully engages its target audience and encourages them to play together, think, and let their imaginations flourish. The only wrong-turn I felt, was at the start; when Tommy’s playing with various Star Wars figures, he suddenly reveals Luke Skywalker’s parentage. Perhaps it goes over the heads of the youngest children in the audience, but for those six and seven year olds? Spoilers!