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Southwark Playhouse says goodbye to its home under the arches of London Bridge station with Philip Ridley’s alternative to the Christmas panto.

His plays for adults are often disturbingly violent and troubled, but he’s also a prizewinning writer for children so although the violence is tempered in this “epic story of magic and migration” there’s more than enough going on to hold the attention of young and old alike.

The seeds of a 500 year journey are sown when young Lena’s two suitors force her to choose between them – Craig Vye’s Jared with his muscles (handy for building a house), or Stefan who offers his imagination to entertain their future children. Brawn wins out, but it’s far from happily ever after as we follow the adventures of their daughter Shylyla (and -until he ends up as dinner - Blazerbird with his empowering feathers) through too much war and not enough peace, the foundation of a new society and the search for a happy home.

Simply staged, David Mercatali’s jaunty production sweeps along at a swift pace, relying on the versatility of half a dozen professional actors plus a more than competent chorus of t-shirted members of YoCo (the Southwark Playhouse’s Young Company) to move the action across oceans and centuries, abetted by a handful of “Official Historians” who can’t agree on the facts.

Some of the humour probably went way over the heads of the youngest members of the audience, but they (like their adult escorts, and no doubt Ridley himself) all seemed to be enjoying themselves – which is exactly what’s required at this time of year. Louise Kingsley

Southwark Playhouse, Shipwright Yard, SE1 2TF
Until 5th January | £16
Tube London Bridge
southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Image: Bronwen Sharp


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