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The Night Before Christmas, Cumbernauld Theatre

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a ..." Half a mo'.

Who's that scurrying and squeaking in the shadows? No, it's not a mouse, because Ed Robson's vividly imagined storytelling isn't based on Clement Moore's much-loved 19th-century poem. Instead, Robson has rifled through the pages of our favourite fairy tales and distilled ten of them into one fast-moving piece of superbly realised physical theatre. And it's the physicality – the lovely use of mime techniques, the hints of buffon-clowning and wittily choreographed movement – that allows the narratives to flow without the disruptive palaver of scene changes and copious props.

As for that scurrying, well it introduces a five-strong troupe of red-nosed characters who bounce about as if bursting to tell us about the Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, the Selfish Giant and finally – in a one-minute flourish of ensemble words and actions – Pinocchio.

Ten short but evocatively detailed episodes are played out against a backdrop of white canvas peaks, ideal for back projections, colour washes and star-sparkly lighting effects, all of which help to create a sense of midnight magic, a strange visitation, and the prospect of fun, adventures and surprises. The cast really are a dream team for Robson: merrily nimble on their toes, able to switch characters convincingly, in tune with commedia timing and tomfoolery. There's a kind of audience participation that has nothing to do with shouting out and everything to do with just listening, spellbound. The prevailing hush, and lack of any fidgeting, said it all: great stories, well told, are just the (best) ticket.


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