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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Tallest tales from the furthest forest: Christmas theatre for littlepeople

Something I struggle with every Christmas is whether or not I should take my children to see a traditional Christmas panto. They are great fun but at up to £25 per ticket, this sort of outing certainly doesn't come cheap. Fortunately, my eldest two are going with school this year but then I am left feeling guilty that my almost 3 year old is missing out on all of the fun. I am not sure he is old enough to sit through a traditional pantomime so when I heard about a show produced by the Northern Stage that was especially aimed at children aged 6 and under it was definitely something I was eager to learn more about.

The tallest tales from the furthest forest is a one hour show featuring short stories that are all set within a magical forest. It is not a Christmas show as such, rather a show that is being shown around Christmas time. It is however the perfect introduction to the magic of theatre for pre-schoolers. The first thing that struck me when we entered the theatre was how the entire room had been transformed to make you feel as though you were sitting inside the magical forest yourself and we were immediately made to feel as part of the show instead of just a spectator. There is room for little ones to sit on the floor or on your knee or beside you on the 'grass'. There are no allocated seats which is great when you are with spontaneous toddlers as you can choose to sit as close to or far from the action as your toddlers mood that day dictates.

The story begins with a defiant little girl who is lost in the forest and stumbles upon 3 quirky story tellers. The little girls journey home is told through various short traditional European and Russian fairy tales. This format works very well with little ones as the stories and props are ever-changing and there is always something new to watch so their attention is held throughout. The cast are some of the most talented I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Their ever-changing characters were amazing to watch (look out for the runaway bun - hilarious) and their use of simple props and puppets wowed the audience (I LOVED the spider gloves).

The show is a feast on all of your senses. The live music and sound effects which were played by the cast were superb and the audience are encouraged to touch some of the props (or even become a prop themselves) throughout. There is also sprinkling of magic as characters appear and disappear around different parts of the room when you least expect it.

Lots of audience participation and silly noises ensured everybody had fun and the audience were in fits of giggles on several occasions. We loved taking part in a (foam) food fight during the storytellers  picnic, growing tall to become part of the forest and trap the wicked witch and singing and dancing along to the songs.

The show was 100% perfectly pitched at children aged 6 years and under but as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it too and I know if I had taken my 7 year old along, he also would have been in fits of giggles throughout. There were many practical points which ensured this theatre experience for little ones and their parents was as enjoyable as possible too. I liked how easy it was to simply take your child to the toilet (which was just at the theatre entrance) without disrupting the show and there was enough room that you didn't even have to ask anybody to stand up to let you past. I liked how you could easily cuddle into your little one when the lights were dimmed to reassure them and I liked how small and intimate the theatre was and there were no loud bangs to overwhelm your child.

The Tallest tales from the furthest forest is on at the Northern stage theatre in Newcastle until January 4th 2014. Tickets cost just £12.50 for adults and £9.50 for children. Babies aged 1 year and under are £1. Visit the Northern stage website for show timings and to buy tickets but be quick! Many dates are already sold out. Buy tickets here

For a fantastic value show that is suitable for the whole family this Christmas, I really cannot recommend this show enough.

Disclaimer:- we were provided with free tickets in return for this review. All views are our own. 

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