Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Youth Panel Review: The Siege of Christmas

Contact Young Company and Slung Low
Contact Theatre
19 December 2016 to 22 December 2016

2016 has been a strong year for Contact Young Company. The winners of last year’s Youth Panel Award have been hard at work and The Siege of Christmas builds on Contact Theatre’s passion for extraordinary theatrical journeys and providing daring opportunities for young people in theatre.

Working alongside Slung Low, Contact Young Company present The Siege of Christmas, an enchanting piece of family-friendly theatre where the audience become toy soldiers weaving their way around Contact’s iconic building helping Nutcracker, a super-secret agent, to find and release the spirit of Christmas. Along the way we bump into a decoration of re-imagined Christmas characters including a multipack of militant mince pies, some demoralised Elves, a depressed Christmas cracker and a roll of rapping wrapping paper.

The whole piece is light-hearted and fun with a healthy slice of Christmas cheer and just a sprinkling of pantomime. Nutcracker (Gráinne Flynn) and Dan “the front of house manager” (Joshua Wilkinson) guide the audience through this festive-filled journey expertly and interact particularly well with the young audience. The children in the audience are gently encouraged to participate and it is clear that The Siege of Christmas certainly hits the mark with its target audience.

Unfortunately the show’s finale felt a little flat following the rushing excitement of chasing a band of sugar-loaded fairies through Contact’s turrets and stairways. It would have been nice to see a more climactic and choreographed ending to neatly wrap up the action of the production.

However, the producers should be congratulated on their use of audience movement and gentle audience interaction. From the aggressive Mince Pie Haka that initially locks the audience out of the building, to the clever narration throughout; the journey eliminates any feeling of “dead-air” whilst travelling between the various scenes. Every step has been carefully considered and Contact once again demonstrate the incredible talents of the young people they work with.

Reviewer: Harriet Mallion


Comment by Lizz Clark

Siege is a complex machine of a production, the size of Contact itself, in which the vast majority of the cogs run smoothly. The audience's radio headsets are an inspired idea executed well, allowing us to hear whispered dialogue perfectly even when travelling around in a large group. Musical cues are piped directly into our ears at just the right moments.

A number of episodic scenes, which take place all around the building, are tied together by the search for the spirit of Christmas. I agree with Harriet that the ending of the story, when we discover who stole Christmas and why, does not quite give as satisfactory a payoff as it should. The slight disappointment stands out more because, up until that moment, the pace and tension of the mysterious storyline are maintained so expertly by the music, set-dressing and performances.

Children are engaged by the quest and its interactive elements, while adults can enjoy the refreshing storytelling too.