Those of you currently suffering Mary Poppins-related anxiety – ie. worrying whether the new film will trample all over the original story or respect and improve the classic tale – may understand how I felt about seeing The Elves and the Shoemakers at York Theatre Royal. It’s a story I read again and again as a child, completely in love with the idea of the little elves working their magic at night to help the old couple who are so poor they can’t even buy each other a Christmas present. I hoped this new adaptation of the Grimms’ classic – written by Mike Kenny and directed by Juliet Forster – would keep the magic alive, and it certainly does.
From the moment we stepped into the snow-dusted Studio, I knew we were in safe hands. The first ‘oooh’ came when our four-year-old set eyes on the Shoemakers’ shop, where all the magic happens. It opens up to reveal the chilly world of the two old shoemakers who, although they have no wood left for the fire, are still warm-hearted and hopeful. Christmas is approaching and they have no money to buy each other presents, but a stroke of festive luck brings a pair of playful elves into their lives to change things forever.
The elves, brought to life through skilful puppetry, are a joy. They’re just like my children, and possibly yours: playing hide-and-seek, bickering, fighting, messing about and making up. They have their own secret language, too, which we’ve been trying on for size since we got home (‘Could you get your boofy shooz on please’?). And of course, they also have big hearts and incredible shoe-making abilities: watching them transform pieces of leather into stunning pairs of shoes is as hilarious as it is impressive. In transforming the leather each night, they also transform the lives of the old couple, who can now enjoy a lovely Christmas and many more happy years in their (newly re-named) shop.
The Elves and the Shoemakers was all I hoped it would be and more. But more importantly, our youngest thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, and the other children in the audience seemed to be entranced too. With catchy songs, brilliant puppetry and a heartwarming festive story, it’s full of treats, just like the perfect stocking on Christmas morning.
The Elves and the Shoemakers runs until 5th January 2019. Visit the York Theatre Royal Box Office for more details and to book tickets.
By way way…Little Vikings sponsors The Elves and the Shoemakers. However, as with all our reviews, will we only ever recommend something if we have genuinely enjoyed it (whether we are a sponsor or not). It is important to us that our audience can trust our recommendations and know that they are independent.