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Review: THE PIXIE AND THE PUDDING, Little Angel Studios

Review: THE PIXIE AND THE PUDDING, Little Angel Studios

A festive farmyard puppetry production

4 stars

Puppetry specialists, Little Angel Theatre have shows running at both their venues this Christmas. While younger children will love We're Going on a Bear Hunt at their theatre site, the production playing at Little Angel Studios is aimed at a slighter wider age range (4 to 11).

Written by Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane, The Pixie and the Pudding is based on the Scandinavian legend of the Christmas Nisse, a mythical creature associated with the fortune of farmers.

The Pixie and the Pudding sees Charlie (Jazmine Wilkinson) and her Dad (Samuel Dutton) swap the city for life on a farm but nothing seems to go right for them. If only Dad had paid attention to the note left by his predecessor on the farmhouse windowsill.

Before Dad and Charlie move in, we get a glimpse of how things should be on the farm. Every day the old farmer (also played by Samuel Dutton) rises to the crow of the cockerel and goes about his daily tasks with love and affection for his animals. Then on Christmas Eve comes a most important tradition; make a Christmas pudding and place it on the windowsill for the pixies.

It's all there in the note but Dad dismisses it as nonsense; animals don't need names, sheepdogs should stay outside, and he's certainly not making a Christmas pudding for a fictional fairy. It turns out that angry pixies are not conducive to a prosperous farm, and Dad's ready to retreat to the safety of the city until Charlie decides to do things the old farmer's way.

It's quite a gentle and slow story, reflecting the simplicity of life on the farm. Things pick up a little when the pixie gets involved but it's still not especially subversive. The naughtiest thing the cheeky little puppet does is make Dad repeatedly step in poo. The ending is also a little twee but there are some nice themes to discuss with older children, including the value of tradition, the distinction between city and rural life, and the need to treat animals with respect.

The two performers work tirelessly as they take on their own roles as well as operating the assortment of puppets. The latter job involves an impressive amount of shuffling around quietly on their knees as they move the puppets into position.

Mila Sanders' versatile set design is one of the stars of the production, utilising revolving scenery to switch between the farmyard and the inside of the farmhouse. (My nine-year-old companion excitedly leaned in and whispered "that's cool" when the set was first switched.) Lyndie Wright's varied puppet design is another highlight, particularly the hen puppet which actually lays eggs. SHERRY COENEN's lighting design also adds a touch of magic to proceedings. Barb Jungr's songs don't quite pack the same punch as those in We're Going on a Bear Hunt, but they're catchy enough to find themselves occupying space in your head on the way home.

Running at a little under an hour, the production retains the attention of the young audience throughout and would suit families with a mix of pre-schoolers and slightly older children. While it's recommended for up to age 11, that is probably a little over-optimistic. My nine-year-old really enjoyed it, preferring it to Bear Hunt (for which she is a little above the age recommendation) but agreed that it probably wouldn't appeal to children in years 5 or 6.

Overall, The Pixie and the Pudding is a wholesome and humorous take on a traditional folktale. If you're after something calmer than the chaos of panto this Christmas, it's well worth stepping out of the city for an hour down on the farm.

The Pixie and the Pudding at Little Angel Studios until 29 January 2023

Photo Credit: Ellie Kurttz

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