M6 Theatre Company have put together a heartwarming show filled with the Christmas spirit, with some truly charming use of puppetry, storytelling and stage magic It is exactly the kind of show you would expect to see at the North Wall Arts Centre at this time of year.
The show has an enchanting sense of wonder and awe about it.
Our solo performer Guy Hargreaves plays a cross between a train conductor and a guardian angel, who’s got the best job in the world, helping people by spreading a little magic. He and his friend, a bird called Sylvie, take the audience along with them on his job to help Ted, an lonely old man and puppet played skillfully by Hargreaves. We see how one small act of kindness and a bit of magic, can grow into something beautiful. The little gift of a plant pot and seed that grows becomes Ted’s motivation to reconnect with the world outside his window.
Hargreaves uses a motley collection of classic storytelling, physical theatre, sleight of hand and stage magic, to keep us intrigued as to where the story is going next. Whilst the overall pacing is a little inconsistent, and the piece takes a bit time to get going. The highlight of the piece is the character of Ted, who is delightful, and his transformation from a harrumphing OAP grumbling at the noisy neighbours, to absolutely smitten by his new frond-y friend is lovely to watch. Hargreaves has a wide and wonderful range of grumbling, muttering and groaning that instantly endear the audience to Ted. The attention to detail is excellent, Little Gifts takes small charming scenes, such as Ted and his plant sitting on a snowy vista and heightens them with a little stage magic, with Hargreaves gently sprinkling the pair of friends with falling snow. That lifts them into little moments of awe.
Designer Joss Matzen and Lighting Designer Adam Carrée have made a beautifully designed show. It takes a lot of careful planning and effort to make something look this slick and easy. I particularly enjoyed the strong recycled-eco aesthetic to the props combined with a brilliant use of colour. It’s very impressive what you can achieve with 50 suitcases, and a bundle of ingenuity. Particularly good use made of directional sound, when Sylvie was flapping around the stage, or we were zooming across town or in and out of peoples houses.
The show has an enchanting sense of wonder and awe about it. If you like your Christmas tales free of Christanity, but still with thematic morals to love thy neighbour, that will charm and absorb little ones, Little Gifts is for you.