The Siege of Christmas at the Contact Theatre, Manchester.
Yesterday, we were invited to the Contact Theatre for an immersive theatre experience. The audience is invited to join Santa’s secret agent, Nutcracker, on an urgent mission to find the stolen spirit of Christmas. The adventure starts in the foyer, when we’re chased out of the building by four angry mince pies, who refuse to let us back in the building unless we all promise never to microwave a mince pie again. Nutcracker comes to our rescue, as we stand outside in the snow (specially arranged to fall as we leave the building!), and asks us to help her find the spirit of Christmas, which is hidden somewhere in the theatre building. She leads us to an entrance at the back of the theatre, through an archway beautifully decorated with Christmas sparkles, and inside we find two grumpy elves in their workshop. They tell us they are on strike, as they feel unappreciated and have lost their Christmas spirit. With a bit of help from the audience, they manage to recover their spirit, and we move on through the building.
As we move from the rooms and corridors of the theatre building, we bump into more Christmas characters, including a giant Christmas cracker, a melting snow globe, two bad fairies and a roll of rapping wrapping paper, each with their own reason for not feeling terribly festive. As we traveled from one area to the next, there were short activities for the audience to get involved with, such as solving riddles or having a sing-song and there were lots of jokes along the way.
The performers are all wearing microphones, which link up to a set of headphones each of us are given. We loved this innovation and all agreed it makes for a really immersive experience (and it means you can hear perfectly, even if you’re at the back of the group). My three children (11, 10 and 7) all loved the show for its originality and were really engaged throughout the hour long adventure. The energetic cast were all very talented and had a great connection with the audience, especially Nutcracker and Dan, the front of house manager. When the performance finished, those of the Contact team who had acted as ushers on our way round were very keen to hear what we thought of the experience and whether we had enjoyed ourselves, which I thought was rather lovely.
The Contact Theatre is a great space and gives young actors an opportunity to learn their craft. The Siege of Christmas was devised by the Contact Young Company in conjunction with Leeds-based Slung Low. It is on until 20th December 2017, with performances at 11am, 2pm and 6pm each day (although the 6pm show on Tuesday and Wednesday is sold out, according to the Contact website). You can book at Contactmcr.com.
Jane and her family received tickets for the show, but the views in this review are entirely their own.