There are many wonderful signs that it’s Christmas in Cardiff. The magical lights, the spectacle of Winter Wonderland, the eclectic stalls which form Cardiff’s Christmas market. And Christmas at the Sherman Theatre. This for my children is the best part, because I think they know – I get to go because of them.
This year is no different. As soon as I told them we were off to see The Magic Porridge Pot, the Sherman’s Christmas production for younger children, it began. We reminisced about the productions of previous years. And then the inevitable. “Does that mean when we get home we can put the Christmas decorations up?”. Our Christmas traditions, it seems, start with a trip to the Sherman Theatre.
The great part of Christmas at the Sherman is that the productions aren’t necessarily “Christmas”, but they always intuitively lead you to the values of Christmas, and without seeing it coming The Magic Porridge Pot had me hook, guilt and sinker- and fortunately the children loved it just as much.
Alun Saunders stays true to The Brothers Grimm tale, but successfully builds in a modern day reality, of busy.Hanna Jarman has a truism in her reflection of young Aggie. Desperate to help, but in the reality taking more energy in helping than it takes to get the job done. As Nene, Aggie’s parent, Mali Jones was absolutely convincing in her frustrations of how much energy a child’s “help” can consume. But well my sympathies may have been lying with Aggie, as Mali Jones took on a range of fantastic, comedic characters so I fell for this production.
As Nene becomes poorly so she has no choice but to put her trust in Aggie and send her out to seek help. And, of course, the range of community characters are too busy to be waylaid by Aggie. And so Aggie seeks out of the resources of woods.
In this telling, the aged woman is Madam Regana. The all-seeing teacher, who escaped to the woods from the changing village. Madam Regana showing her kindness- not the ‘baddy’ I’m sure the children were willing, but instead of slight sorrow- the lack of community had led her to the preference of solitude.
And so, with Madam Regana’s community spirit still intact, so we hear the words. “Cook, little pot, cook,” brought porridge so good “it tastes like a cwtch.” Oh how my heart melted. And with “Stop, little pot,” it ceased to cook.
The pride of Aggie as she nursed Nene back to health was palpable. But then, of course, life prevails. Nene wants to take back responsibility. But, of course, a taste as heart-warming as a cwtch can never be overlooked. If only Nene knew how to stop the pot cooking.
And so the community eventually comes together, the wonderful characters created by Mali Jones enable a village to be rebuilt.Of course the children loved the performance. The ability of the Sherman to combine live music with performance is a favoured element. And with my two boys eager to follow their sister with music lessons, I know watching performances like this makes them ever more enthused.
They loved the humour, but unlike to many other productions- they loved the story. Sometimes my children love the moments, in The Magic Porridge Pot they loved the characters, they related with Aggie where I related with Nene. As the disco ball moved, so one child spotted it- every element has meaning. Elgan Rhys’ direction has an amazing attention to detail- for the story, for humour, and for the ensemble- for music, light and magic.
I wondered, as I sat with a twin on each knee, hoping my vantage point wasn’t detracting the visual for the audience behind me, how this combination of production elements was possible.
And yes, my boys really do have the lowest attention span. B loses himself in a sentence. But here they were. Still.
This is the absolute joy of the younger children’s performance at the Sherman Theatre. It is magical. And it allows your children to respond as children.
To sit on children’s chairs, to lie or sit on mat’s, to be with their charges in larger chairs (phew!). To offer commentary, to be still, to fidget, to cry. The beauty of the Sherman’s space is that space is equally carried as confined. Families are families. I am relieved when it’s not mine as equally as I know I won’t be judged when it is mine.
Whilst there is an absolute magic for the children in the audience in Alun Saunders’ telling of The Magic Porridge Pot there is the uncomfortable, resonating truth for the adults- of not being wrapped up in your own, of knowing your neighbour, knowing how to offer care and thoughtfulness in the community.
I suspect I left the production more moved than my children- although as always my children have taken away the best elements. Of ‘Cook, Porridge Pot, Cook’, of disco balls and axes, and of a hope of playing xylophones.
The Sherman Theatre always leaves you with more aspirations than those with which you walked in. Even in its productions for younger audiences this is a given.
The Magic Porridge Pot is at the Sherman Theatre until 30th December 2018, with tickets at £9. Tickets can be purchased on 029 20 646900 or via the website.
Disclosure: We were invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words contained are our own.