Review: Father Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse

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While in the main theatre The Jungle Book is aimed at children over the age of seven, this adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ modern classic, is for anyone aged two and over – and will genuinely delight anyone who grew up with Briggs’ story of a cantankerous bearded fat man in a red suit.

Given that it is 40 years old this year, that’s a lot of people who will fall in love with this story all over zgain.

The magical figure of Father Christmas was given an irreverent makeover by Raymond Briggs, the man who also created The Snowman, back in 1973. With his proclamations of “Bloomin’ Christmas” and the fact that he celebrates the end of another busy year by rounding off a big meal with an ever bigger cigar, it might be considered of its time. Not so. It continues to captivate the generations and proof is in this utterly charming stage adaptation.

As beguiling for the adults as it clearly was for the children, this is a beautifully theatrical piece of work with a heart as big as Christmas. Seamus O’Neill was surely born to play this part, with his bowl-full-of-jelly belly and an avuncular presence that remains even when he is telling the bloomin’ dog or the bloomin’ cat that they are getting under his feet.

What turns this into an intensely theatrical piece of work is the presence of Naomi Lee Schulke, who watches over the action, plays music and provides inventive foley to the main man’s adventures. That she is not hidden, but always in view, makes her as much a part of the audience as the performance. This will make children love theatre.

To Jan 11. 0113 2137700.