The Elves and the Shoemakers – Derby Theatre Studio



This lovely little Christmas production is inspired by the Grimm fairy tale written just over a hundred years ago in 1806. Performed in the intimate 100 seater studio, it is aimed at 3-7 year olds but particularly suits pre-school age children, and is an ideal introduction to the theatre as a first visit for youngsters.

The single set of the shoemakers house is quaint and atmospheric, the music simple and child friendly. Two pairs of characters are presented, the old shoemaker and his wife, and two young elves both enthusiastically and energetically played by Gareth Cooper and Bethany-Jo Clews, who have to perfect some fairly nifty costume changes from their bedroom as shoemakers, to elves a few moments later.


Bethany Jo Clews and Gareth Cooper

All the ingredients for young children are here. The plot is simple, the language repetitive ensuring that everyone knows what is going on, the humour is gentle, and the costumes are bright and colourful. Children from the audience are invited on stage, and there are plenty of opportunities to join in with songs and indulge in communal foot stamping and dancing.

The already simple source story is further simplified, and the running time of fifty five minutes in one act is perfect for a child’s attention span. From an adult’s point of view, the cut parts of the tale are a disappointment. But what is left does fit the timeframe within which they are working. The magic is woven but not stretched. The Elves and the Shoemakers is enjoying a very successful run, with performances typically at 10.30am and 1.30pm so as not to interfere with young bedtimes, and runs until Sat 26th December.

This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.

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