dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
So what's the name of that red-nosed reindeer?
Midlands Arts Centre's Christmas show is a new telling of the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But this Rudolf is not only spelt differently – this reindeer is also a she! What's more, she arrives at the Starry Safari Park in a crate in the night and has no idea who she is or where she's from.
The next hour sees Rudolf attempting to discover her identity. Initially, she wants to fit in with the other animals so tries to convince flamingos she can flamenco and impress upon the local snake her sneakiness. But it's to no avail – none of the other animals will allow her to join their club. It's only when Rudolf heads off to the North Pole, aided by snowy owl Baggi, that she can find her own friends.
Created by Pins and Needles and Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), Rudolf is a charming and clever re-take on a well-known story. Aimed at children aged four and above, much of the humour is simple – tripping over broomsticks and farting elephants for example – but effective in making youngsters laugh. Stu Barter's music also features some catchy songs and I'm sure there's a trace of a well-known Rudolf number just at the end.
Directed by Anna Girvan, there are also some really lovely moments. Rudolf's arrival at the safari park is heralded by a red-nose shaped star which moves across the sky and there is some great use of shadow puppetry to tell some of the story. Baggi and Rudolf's journey to the North Pole has a touch of magic as the stage darkens and the snowy owl begins to fly. Transforming the stage from safari park to North Pole is also managed without breaking the narrative while creating a whole new world.
Hannah Bristow is hugely likeable as the downcast Rudolf – so much so that some of the children in the audience are keen to let her know she's Rudolf by shouting out her name when she first asks who she is! Hannah is given strong support by fellow cast members Lakesha Cammock and Tea Poldervaart, showing great versatility in a range of roles including puppetry.
With the story finishing on Christmas Eve as Rudolf takes up her most important job of the year, there's a clear message about accepting people (or maybe animals!) for who they are and for the importance of friendship. With the cast members frequently talking to the audience and small children able to sit on cushions at the front of the stage, the youngsters are drawn into the story and held spellbound by Rudolf's festive adventure.