Hans Christian Andersen is given a theatrical twist in Islington

17:37 01 December 2011

Marie Fortune (left) and Lizzy Johansen from Red Table in rehearsals

Marie Fortune (left) and Lizzy Johansen from Red Table in rehearsals


Parents might well think there is no better way to get into the yuletide spirit than a festive family theatre show.

But for restless youngsters, sitting still and silent in front of the Nutcracker for hours on end might be more of a nightmare before Christmas than anything else.

Fledgling theatre company Red Table Theatre hopes to tackle this problem in Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, which opens at the Pleasance Theatre in Holloway on Tuesday.

The play features the innovative troupe’s trademark “snuggle pit” - which sees the first three rows of seats make way for a sea of cushions, pillows, duvets and soft toys.

Director Rafe Beckley, who founded Red Table with his brother last year, said: “Kids are not hemmed in and told they have to sit and be quiet. It gives them the freedom to enjoy themselves.

“We allow them to get comfortable, and they just settle down and start paying attention. We even had one show where a child walked on stage and sat on the actor’s lap, and the performers just got on with the show.”

Red Table has good form bringing the work of great children’s writers to the stage. It received universal praise last Christmas for its hit Just So Stories, at the King’s Head in Islington, based on the Rudyard Kipling tales.

Andersen’s Fairy Tales promises to be no less magical. It features four of the beloved Danish writer’s lesser-known works, including The Shirt Collar, The Most Incredible Thing and The Nightingale, all re-translated and adapted by the team.

The playful emphasis on childlike fun does not stop with the novel seating arrangements.

There will be music, mini Danish lessons and everyday objects brought to life - from simple paper puppets to animals made from pillows, jumpers and scarves - and above all, clear and simple storytelling.

Mr Beckley said: “Andersen’s original Danish was very clear and accessible, but the Victorian translations lost that, so we did our own.

“We have a house style that is all about accessible storytelling, using everyday objects and bringing them to life. The thinking is that children - so often brought up on computer games without that human element - and families can see what we’re doing and come away inspired for bedtime storytelling and play at home.”

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales is at 11am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm from December 6 to 31, at the Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, off North Road, Holloway. Visit or call 020 7609 1800 for tickets.


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