14 December 2017.
One minute you’re an ordinary audience member getting ready to see a show the next you’re being enlisted as a secret toy soldier to save the Spirit of Christmas. It’s all a bit of a merry mix-up. Secret agent Nut Cracker has mistaken us for her undercover colleagues but conveniently we find ourselves at a loose end after being thrown out of Contact’s foyer by some militant mince pies…
By now, you should have a rough idea of what’s ahead. We’re on an unlikely but enthralling quest! While most festive shows are happy to pass off shouting “oh no it isn’t” as an interactive experience, Contact and Slung Low’s collaboration aims a bit higher. Headphones on, we’re off to save the Spirit of Christmas led on our way by the intrepid agent Nut Cracker and the reluctant Front of House Manager Dan.
The interplay between Nut Cracker and Dan is wonderfully done. Nut Cracker is a woman of action while Dan is never short of a problem sourced from his rule book. At one point as we flee to safety he cautions against running as he hasn’t completed the necessary heath and safety paperwork. Fortunately Dan’s rule about “no spontaneous performances in the corridors” is ignored. In fact, get ready for plenty of unexpected experiences in unusual places. Members of Contact Young Company enthusiastically populate the building with fairies, elves, unpulled crackers and rapping wrapping paper.
There’s lots of fun – with moves to learn, rhymes to make and crackers to pull. I’ll spare you my cracker joke but rest assured I got lots of practice perfecting the Nut Cracker Freeze and the Custard Creep? Young audience members are entrusted with valuable fragments of map and supplies of fairy dust. It’s all a bit magical as big loading bay doors slide open like the entrance to a secret passage or surprises suddenly appear from behind a curtain. I also couldn’t quite believe the snow we encountered wasn’t real…
Each scenario and space is designed to enchant with lots of lights, sparkle and glitter. Yet nothing ever feels beyond reach or too fantastical. The show’s ability to create wonder in unlikely places seems to offer encouragement to carry on searching for it in the ordinary everyday. Similarly the lessons we learn don’t require any secret formula, many of the problems encountered on our jolly journey are solved simply by making connections and being kind and generous.
Lively, fun and inventive. Who needs a sleigh ride when you can immerse yourself in ‘The Siege of Christmas’? This is one mission you’d be foolish to choose not to accept!
As an adult (spoiler alert, I am over 18) the show was also an unexpectedly touching ‘goodbye’ to Contact as it closes for an exciting transformation. It was a wonderful way to have one last wander through the current building, in the company of the brilliant Contact Young Company, and with added tinsel, crackers (and a free joke).
Q – What is an underground train full of professors called?
A – A tube of smarties
Images by Joel Chester-Fildes.