Promise not to tell her if you see her, but we’re not taking our youngest to the panto this year. The York Theatre Royal pantomime has been a firm fixture in our family Christmas for decades, and I want our kids to love it as much as I do. But I’ve also been a parent for long enough to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to festive entertainment, and the two-year-old is at the stage that she’d find the all-singing, all-dancing Wagon Wheel whirlwind of the main panto overwhelming. So a sad theatre-free Christmas for the littlest viking? Not at all! The Mischief Before Christmas, which also runs at York Theatre Royal between now and Christmas Eve, is perfectly crafted to fill the gap and we were invited along to see it earlier this week.
Designed for kids aged 3 to 7 – not known for their ability to sit still for long periods – it’s an interactive adventure that took us on a journey around the newly refurbished theatre building on the search for a rather cheeky elf called Frank. It’s full to the brim with festive spirit and had the children completely captivated with puppetry, songs, stories and clue-solving. Santa hats off to the two actors, Lane Paul Stewart and Danielle Winter, who were sweet, funny, engaging and very entertaining. Our two year old was completely relaxed in a way that she wouldn’t be at the main pantomime; she loved writing her letter to Santa,singing Jingle Bells very loudly, counting the lost letters to Father Christmas and dodging some enormous balloons. There really wasn’t a dull moment. It’s a Christmas show that sparkles.