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The Siege of Christmas

Contact and Slung Low

The Siege of Christmas Credit: Joel Chester Fildes

For it's unusual Christmas production, Contact is not only reviving it's sold-out production from last year but throwing in a tour of the building just before it closes for its latest big refurbishment.

This collaboration between Contact Young Company and Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low begins in the foyer of the theatre as the audience all don radio headsets, through which the rest of the show's audio is delivered. Just as house manager Dan is trying to herd the audience into the theatre, a gang of rogue mince pies eject us all through the front door and out into the street, where there is a curiously localised fall of snow.

Nutcracker, a military leader, takes charge as we try to take back the theatre and recover the Spirit of Christmas from whomever has stolen it. The quest takes us backstage, where we encounter some dispirited toy-making elves, onto the stage to meet an angry Christmas cracker, and then in various areas front-of-house to meet a melting snow-woman, a Christmas "rapping" paper and some fairies who have lost their magic fairy dust. All of these have to be won over with the magic of Christmas before they will help us.

Then we finally get to sit briefly in the auditorium to find who has stolen the Spirit of Christmas and why—there is a slight suggestion of a moral about thinking of those who are unable to celebrate Christmas in the way that most of us take for granted—before trying to persuade her, too, of the magic of Christmas.

The storytelling isn't exactly sophisticated and the script fairly simplistic, despite the novelty of its method of delivery, but it is fun, probably primarily aimed at primary age and younger but the promenade staging and the use of the technology (although it could be argued that the headphones aren't strictly necessary as the people whose voices you hear are never more than a few yards away) widens its appeal.

Despite being performed for up to three shows a day, it is selling out fast, so if you fancy an energetic hour investigating the joy of Christmas in a way you can't in any other theatre in Manchester this year, you will need to book soon.

Reviewer: David Chadderton