The Elf Who Was Scared Of Christmas

Neil McDermott and Gina Beck
Danielle Tarento
Charing Cross Theatre

The Elf Who Was Scared Of Christmas Credit: Danielle Tarento

Why should an elf be frightened of Christmas?

This titular scaredy cat has nothing to do with the Nordic gods or the Elfin worlds of the Elizabethans or of Tolkien. She is one of the elves that nineteenth century Americans invented as “Santa’s little helpers”.

She’s not frightened of Christmas because she’s pre-Christian or anything like that but because (and I suspect writer-performers Neil McDermott and Gina Beck made up the whole thing) it’s her job to deliver your Christmas present without anyone seeing her. If anyone does, she loses her own magic abilities.

Her name is Cupcake and her boy elf friend Figgy wants to help her face up to her fear and be able to get on with doing deliveries of Ppp-resents. That very word sends her in paroxysms of worry and makes her hide under a blanket. This whole show is based on the premise that the audience will want to help her.

Participation is the leading element in this entertainment, aimed at young children. At just under an hour long, it fits their attention spans and performances are morning and midday, timings that make them family friendly. McDermott as Figgy, youngest of Santa’s 77 elves, couldn’t be more welcoming and lively. Even in a COVID-spaced, rather thin house, he spreads warmth among them. Cupcake too is cheerful, greeting even household objects with “Good Morning” until she realises the imminence of Christmas.

The format is simple. By the time we have got to know Figgy and been introduced to Cupcake, rapport with the audience is well established. Figgy has his own problems (he thinks he has lost his magic) but with our help he’ll get Cupcake back in action.

Involvement starts with stamping feet on floor to make sure Cupcake can hear us at the door. A happy song will cheer her up to which we clap along. Now what about a spot of dancing? This one is easy to do still in your seat.

In videos, children tell us what for them makes Christmas special and then with a little mime and your imagination there’s a snow fight before we get down to rerunning Cupcake's helper elf training.

It is very simply staged: a sofa, a rocking horse, a carpet and a few soft toys. This show is its performers and they are energetic and engaging with tuneful voices (Beck and McDermott both have strong musical theatre backgrounds) to sing the songs that frequently pop up including a Christmas song finale that you can join in after a happy ending.

Of course, Cupcake gets back her courage and Figgy his magic. It only needs a sprinkle of cinnamon; why didn’t he know that?

Reviewer: Howard Loxton