The result is Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps, a musical which tours to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17.
The show comes from TaleGate Theatre, a follow-up to their big touring success with Father Christmas Needs A Wee, which also came from the pen of Nicholas Allan.
TaleGate Theatre artistic director James Worthington said: “We are really lucky to be working with Nicholas again on another of his books as they are perfect for cheeky children everywhere. When even the title makes you laugh you know you are in for a good time!
“Father Christmas has been very, very good to our company, and I think this is now our fourth year of going to Worthing. We started as one show in the studio and then two shows and now we are going to do five shows in the big theatre. People really enjoy it.
“We are TaleGate, which is TaleGate as in the gateway to a tale, not as in tailgate, someone smashing into the back of your car. We don’t aim to be a car crash! We started the company nine years ago. I was a jobbing actor, and I just felt that the care that should have been going into children’s theatre wasn’t there. I thought that young audiences deserved better than they were getting. The scripts were too patronising. Ours are always very clever and intelligent and can be taken at different levels. I really think you have got to put the same amount of care into theatre for children as you do into Shakespeare. Children are our future audiences in the theatre. We need to look after them.
“We started the company from nothing, really. We have done pantomime for the last nine years. We did Christmas pantos and Easter pantos and for the last three years we have also done Halloween pantos. That has been the mainstay of the company, and the shows have been growing. And then about five years ago, we wanted to progress from panto into writing our own shows.”
James remembered the Nicholas Allan book The Queen’s Knickers, but discovered it wasn’t available when he spoke to Nicholas – who instead suggested Father Christmas Needs A Wee: “We worked with Nicholas and turned that into a musical. It went to the fringe festival and we did three UK tours with it since then. And then last year we felt it was time to do the next Nicholas Allan book, which is Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps… which has got nothing at all to do with the President! We are really lucky that Nicholas Allan’s books have got a really big following which we are able to take with us into the theatres. It takes us about two years to get a show up and ready. We start with a meeting with Nicholas, about his own starting points and any references that we need to know about, and then we start with the music and the score and the songs. We break down the story and see where we think a song fits the story.”
This time, among the delights, are the rapping sprouts who rap to the effect that they aren’t nasty and that the children should love them – a message Father Christmas has himself taken on board, with rather disastrous results. Last time, he was troubled by his bladder. This year, well…
“Father Christmas eats up to about 50 Brussels sprouts, and the whole journey is about him trying not to wake up the children with his bottom chirrups…
“He is still the Father Christmas that we all know and love. We are just humanising him a little!”