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The Tinderbox at Charing Cross Theatre – Review

Bridget Costello (Princess) and Samuel J Weir (Brian The Brave) in The Tinderbox at Charing Cross Theatre
Bridget Costello (Princess) and Samuel J Weir (Brian The Brave)

Theatre isn’t just for adults and this time of year there are many opportunities to get the sprogs away from the television or games machines and into a real life theatre where real people make magic happen before their eyes. If you are worried about your offspring having to stay up late to see a show then fear not because the Charing Cross Theatre is putting on performances of The Tinderbox at 11:00 in the morning.

Deep in the forest, a young soldier called Brian (Samuel J. Weir) is returning home from the war. Now Brian may be brave and he may be handsome but unfortunately he is very poor. Also in the forest, is an old witch (Mandy Holliday) who is searching for a Tinderbox buried beneath an old tree. The witch is too feeble to dig for the box herself so enlists Brian’s help, promising him wealth beyond his imagination if he gets the Tinderbox for her. Well, without giving too much away, Brian does find the Tinderbox – which he gets from the Gold Dog (Cerise Hine) – and lots of money and decides to go to the city and party like it’s 1999. When there, Brian sees and falls in love with the Princess (Bridget Costello), who is locked in a tower by her mother The Queen for the crime of wishing to marry for love rather than duty. Can Brian and The Princess ever meet and live happily ever after? Well, no spoilers but this is a kids Christmas show so I think you know the answer to to that one.

Ceris Hine (The Golden Dog) in The Tinderbox at Charing Cross Theatre
Ceris Hine (The Golden Dog)

The Tinderbox was a really enchanting show. It is aimed at children from 3 to, well into their adulthood and really works well at providing entertainment to all. Production Designer Christopher Hone’s simple set – a sort of library shelf with lots of tall book spines – is wonderful and super flexible. I also loved the idea that the set together with a shelf of books and a little imagination can take the reader anywhere with no limits to what they can experience. As well as the story itself by Mandy Holliday, there are some excellent musical numbers adding lyrics to well known and loved classic pieces very effectively.

Director Abigail Pickard Price uses the cast very well to create the various characters that Brian meets on his journey through life and even with minimal of costume changes, it was obvious to child and adult which character was on the stage at any one time. As you would expect, there is a lot of audience interaction and although at the performance I attended, the children seemed reluctant to join in initially, they soon relaxed and were shouting along whenever one of the characters asked them to. In fact here was a lovely feeling of connection between the four actors and the audience throughout the show. All four of the cast were really great and managed to get the story across with either patronising the children or losing the interest of the adults, and it takes a pretty fine thespian to walk that tightrope successfully, so hats off to Bridget, Mandy, Ceris and Samuel from me.

All in all then The Tinderbox is a great Christmas show, and at just over an hour long it will please adults and children alike and hopefully keep the spirit of the season in its audience when they leave the theatre and head out into the packed London Streets.

4 stars


Review by Terry Eastham

The Tinderbox
A new version of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous folk tale, The Tinder Box promises to delight young audiences and their families at the Charing Cross Theatre this Christmas

Based on a Scandinavian folk tale Andersen learned in his childhood, join our loveable cheeky hero, Brian the Brave, a penniless solider returning from war who acquires a magic tinderbox and embarks on a quest to find his true love. This enchanting, fun filled musical features an array of wonderful, colourful characters, cleverly combining classical music and story-telling with comedy, lots of audience interaction plus a few surprises along the way!
An unmissable treat for the whole family!

The Tinderbox – Charing Cross Theatre

Bridget Costello – The Princess
Ceris Hine – The Gold Dog
Mandy Holliday – The Old Witch, Harry the Hound & The Wicked Queen
Samuel J Weir – Brian The Brave

Abigail Pickard Price (Director)
Lily Howkins (Choreographer)
Christopher Hone (Production Designer
Chris Randall (Lighting Designer)
Neil Gordon (Costume Supervisor)
Jason Belne and Amanda Armstrong (Producers)

Run time approx. 1 hour 10 minutes.
Age guide: 3+
Sat, 12th December 2015 to Sun, 3rd January 2016 (opening Tue, 28th July 2015)
For more information see www.the-tinderbox.com


1 thought on “The Tinderbox at Charing Cross Theatre – Review”

  1. I saw this on Sunday with my 3 kids aged 3, 5 and 8. They all adored it (and my wife adored Samuel J Weir!). We bought the beautifully illustrated story book which the kids have barely put down, plus I have had to scour my iPod to find the classical pieces used as the kids loved them so much. The Brian the Brave song is their favourite! Thank you to all involved for providing such a magical (and educational) experience for my kids. They keep asking when we can go to the theatre again. 3 new culture vultures have been created!!! 🙂

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