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The Elves

Red Rose Chain
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Adapted by Joanna Carrick

With its muted colours, spiral staircase, wooden floorboards, old-style register and an array of black and brown shoes, I felt I’d stepped into the pages of a beautifully illustrated much-loved tale when I entered the auditorium at Red Rose Chain’s Avenue Theatre . The set really is the star of the show initially, but not for long as the cast of three playing a multitude of characters bring this updated version of the story to life.

Emma Swan as Elvira, the shoemaker’s daughter, is a joy, full of hope in troubled times, though frustrated by her father’s unwillingness to embrace the need for change. In this clever adaptation by Joanna Carrick, it is Elvira’s designs which the elves bring to life in the wee small hours and which ultimately save Lovelace Shoes from closing. Along the way we meet lovesick Frank, just one of many characters played by Ryan Penny, the lowly baker’s assistant who visits Elvira daily, and Norbert, her overbearing, spoilt beau played by Darren Latham. Both Ryan and Darren change from one character to another at such a pace it’s impossible to keep track. Between them they play Norbert and his mother, the shoemaker, the elves, Frank and a number of eager customers.

The set itself seems to blossom as the elves produce an array of wonderfully wacky shoes and boots and the bells on the shop door begin to ring more frequently. Even Norbert’s mum, who comes to warn Elvira that Lovelace Shoes will have to shut when she marries her son, can’t resist buying the most glorious pink boots which, despite her insistence, do not match her outfit!

This is simple storytelling at its very best, but also has an important message (yes, in a Christmas show) about the value we place on ‘quality’ and how critical it is to support our local retail outlets and local craftspeople. Perhaps it also challenges us to dare to be different, or to question our obsession with ‘brand’.

This is a clever take on a very old story. By introducing a range of panto’esque characters, adding a sprinkling of comedy and  a musical number of two, this adaptation will surely stand the test of time.

And watch out for the pink boots. They really are to die for!