Horsham Christmas fun for those too small for panto

Christmas last year saw producer Sam Bradshaw make his Capitol, Horsham, debut in remarkable circumstances.

Santa’s Magical Gift
Santa’s Magical Gift

With the panto being pulled, his show Santa’s Magic Sleigh was upscaled from the studio to the main-house, completing its run – exactly as scheduled – on Christmas Eve just as the latest lockdown closed theatres everywhere.

Sam is delighted to be back again this year, this time – as originally intended – in the studio, this time with Santa’s Magical Gift (December 16-24), another show aimed at capturing youngsters too young to enjoy panto.

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As Sam says, it’s a show for children aged two, three and four, the children too young to sit still for two hours, the children likely to get too scared by the baddies.

And this time, unlike last year, Sam will be able to encourage them all to shout out as much as they want to.

“It was great that we were able to do the show last year and when we moved to the main house we were able to upscale it a little bit. We got the chance to make it a bit more elaborate and it did really, really well. Most of the shows sold out. It was socially-distanced audiences. We only had 160 seats, I think, that we were selling but the feedback was amazing. We started putting some sign language into the choreography and we had great feedback with that as well.

“They decided to cancel the panto at least six or seven weeks before and so we had quite a bit of timing to get ready for the show but it was still different. In panto obviously you want to get the kids to shout out and that’s something that you couldn’t do last year. There were still so many restrictions. And the show last year was a show where we really wanted the audience reaction and participation and obviously we couldn’t do that. But actually if anything it added a dimension to the whole thing because we had to be creative.”

In one of the scenes the idea is to wake up one of the characters by shouting: “Obviously we couldn’t do that. So we just said to the audience that you can get elves to wake up when they feel the vibrations in the floor so we had the whole audience stamping which was great fun! It was unbelievable. We got to go right up to Christmas Eve. The show was a countdown to Christmas and that’s when we were going to stop anyway but we completed our run just as theatres all around were having to cut short theirs.

“We are back in the studio this year. We haven’t done the studio before. Last year was our first time in Horsham and again it’s for children who are a bit too young for panto.

Inevitably it has been a difficult year and a half: “Everything was on tenterhooks, but we have managed to get by. We had a bit of funding, but I think we managed to get by really by being small and by being diverse. A lot of the bigger shows couldn’t afford for the show to go ahead. With our smaller scale we were able to find a way.”

They even managed to complete around half of their summer tour, including dates in Horsham.

“We did Horsham and Redhill and Doncaster and then lost the other dates. It was a difficult decision not to do them but when the sales were not enough to break even, we spoke to the venues and said ‘You’re not going to make any money and we’re not going to make any money and the actors are going to be playing to nobody!’ It just wasn’t going to work but we’re pleased that we managed to get some of the dates in.”

And now they are back with a new show for this year, a festive play by Sam Dredge.

Holly and Trixie the Elves are busy decorating Santa’s workshop in the lead-up to Christmas, cutting out beautiful snowflakes from white paper.

Holly reveals Lapland’s biggest secret: that once a year Santa sends a magical gift to one person who most deserves it.