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Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure

by on 20 December 2021

Christmas Post

Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure

by Kenneth Mason, originated by Sarah Watson.

Silvercube Media Group in association with Dramacube Productions at Hampton Hill Theatre until 24th December

Review by Celia Bard

Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure marks another quest for a little Yupik girl called Ellie and her imaginary friend, Starlight, the polar bear.  Ellie, her family and village have moved higher into the mountains in order to escape the rising sea level caused by global warming.  However, there is a problem.  It’s Christmas, and Ellie is afraid that Father Christmas won’t know that the village has moved and that when he arrives to deliver presents to the children, all he will see is water and no sign of the village in evidence.  Ellie and Starlight, after a lot of thought, decide that they must travel to the North Pole to let him know of their new address and to give him the Christmas list of presents that Ellie has written.  The journey is treacherous, and the pair must overcome a number of dangerous obstacles before they arrive at their destination.

On walking into the auditorium the audience sees that the set is staged with sufficient detail to indicate a village high in the mountains, a snow covered landscape, some dwarf trees, simple box seats and the suggestion of a couple of igloos.   The stage backdrop is that of the night sky, full of stars.  Once the production begins this changes and an image of an actual village in the mountains is shown on the screen, immediately transporting this very young audience into the icy climate near the North Pole, signalled by a fingerpost. 

The seasonal time for Ellie’s adventure is Christmas and as might be anticipated the environmental message implicit in this play is not as strong as Ellie and Starlight: the Musical, performed two years ago; however, some interesting climatic features about the North Pole are introduced, namely the icy condition to be expected in this polar region of the world, strong blizzards, permanent ice caps and phenomenal night skies.   An interesting feature of the landscape and one that interested the young audience was the visual spectacle of the Aurora Borealis.  Starlight has great fun when attempting to pronounce the name of the phenomenon.  The visuals and the name was an admirable attempt to introduce this concept into the minds of young children.

Ellie, played by Holly Hos, and Starlight, played by Peter F. Gardiner, interact with each other extremely well, as they do with the audience.  Hos is just delightful as Ellie.  She has superb physicality and manages successfully to embody the spirit, enthusiasm and optimism of childhood, full of curiosity and very brave.  Gardiner is amicable, full of fun, and very much appreciated by the young audience who find him very funny as well as lovable.  Both actors have an excellent sense of timing, none of their ‘pantomime tricks’ falls flat.

Particularly amusing is the incident in which Starlight finds that his nose is stuck to a slab of ice.  The resourceful Ellie gets the audience to blow warm air by waving their arms in the direction of Starlight’s nose, which eventually is freed… a practical solution to children blowing hot air in this climate of Covid.

The production contains lyrics written by Kenneth Mason.  Their rhythmic composition makes it easy for the very young audience to listen and respond to the music, particularly the first song Dear Father Christmas.   Both Hos and Gardiner have tuneful singing voices and it wasn’t long before the children decided to join in.

Kate Barton as the Narrator succeeded in capturing the children’s interest as soon as she began telling the story about Ellie and Starlight.  What is noticeable about Barton is her good listening skills.  She stayed involved throughout the acting out of the story.  This actor also doubled up as Father Christmas, and this was not so successful.  It may have been better if her role had been changed to Mother Christmas where she would not have struggled to try and imitate a man’s voice.   Father Christmas, just before his exit, is required to deliver a strong environmental message about humans and the importance of looking after our planet Earth, and this was a little lost.  There was room here to have had a greater interaction with the audience, but this a note perhaps for both writer and director. 

Ellie and Starlight conclude the show with the delightful song, Wonderful Day.  This was a fitting conclusion to a most agreeable play and production. 

Kenneth Mason, I thought, had worked his magic again and the thought struck me there is no reason this story shouldn’t automatically follow on as the sequel to Ellie and Starlight: the Musical, as one production in two halves.  There was no sign or boredom from the audience in either shows.  Sarah Watson’s original concept, which gave rise to the creation of the two main characters lends itself with a little adaptation to one stage production.  The content is worthy and deserves further exploitation.   

Celia Bard, December 2021

Image courtesy of Silvercube Media

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