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Winter Wonderland in partnership with Hull New Theatre

It’s a filmed production but there’s something inherently theatrical about Winter Wonderland. Films have a habit of providing visuals that theatre regulars may find somewhat unnecessary. It isn’t sufficient in a motion picture, for instance, to simply have X sat at an agreed meeting point, waiting for Y. The film must show a clock ticking the minutes and seconds away, or perhaps completely over-exaggerate the point with an image of plants growing or the passing of the seasons in some way. There’s none of that here, with background images that set the scene appropriately enough without overdoing it. In other words, less is more.

Winter WonderlandThe Snow Queen (Emma Prendergast) impresses on Jack Frost (Sami Kali) the urgency of the situation: a snow machine, called The Snow Machine (stick with this now) has frozen. This, to me, is like the lost and found box going missing from the reception desk. The overall narrative may not be much to write home about, but that is hardly the point here – the aim, I think, is to provide an enjoyable experience for its target audience, people with profound multiple learning difficulties.

To achieve the desired multi-sensory experience, however, will require more effort than your reviewer put into watching this show. Included are full instructions on how to create fake snow for anyone whose parents/responsible adults will permit them to make a mess (my own puritanical parents certainly wouldn’t back in the day), and later on, another round of ‘Ready Steady Snow’ (geddit?) walks through how to make hot chocolate. I’d rather order artificial snow online rather than mess around with cornflour, bicarbonate of soda and so on, but there’s undoubtedly more satisfaction to be gained from having, so to speak, followed the guidance.

There’s a minute or more of silence at one point, which might, had this been put on in a theatre with a live audience, have precipitated a younger member of the audience calling out, “Say something! Hello?” or even the ultimate ‘game over’ cry of, “Mum, can we go home now? I think it’s finished. No-one’s saying anything!” But otherwise, members of the audience, referred to as ‘Winterns’, are frequently directly addressed, and are sufficiently guided through proceedings.

There’s an enthusiasm that is infectious in this brief but nonetheless steadily paced show, which manages to include song and dance, mild humour, and an important message – particularly pertinent given the ongoing global pandemic – that there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance when it is needed. A delightful and heart-warming production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s winter: the days are shorter, the trees are looking bare and the temperatures have plummeted. But…there’s no snow! The Snow Machine in Winter Wonderland has broken and, if it can’t be fixed, winter will be ruined forever!
But all is not lost. Jack Frost and the Snow Queen have heard that you, the Winterns at home, can help them?
Can you work out why it’s broken? Will you help Jack and Snow mend it and save winter? And does yellow snow really taste like chicken?

Written by Daniel Swift
Directed by Belle Streeton
Creative Produced by Daniel Swift
Edited by FlyGirl Films
Audience Development by Annabelle Moorman
Makaton Training by Prit Chouhan
Sensory Engagement Consultancy by Joanna Grace
Artwork by Marked Perception

Winter Wonderland is supported by Arts Council England, Hull City Council and Back To Ours, and delivered in partnership with Hull New Theatre.

WINTER WONDERLAND by Daniel Swift
Pre-recorded, interactive sensory show available internationally from 18th December.
Tickets available at www.hulltheatres.co.uk

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1 thought on “Winter Wonderland in partnership with Hull New Theatre”

  1. How lovely to see sensory (online) theatre reviewed on a mainstream theatre website! As an active part of the multi-sensory theatre community, it is lovely to see this work becoming more reviewed and recognised. However, the reviewers inexperience with this audience is disheartening at times. The pauses referred to in the review will be to allow for audience processing time which can be delayed in individuals diagnosed with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities or Profound and Multiple Barriers to Learning. They give the audience time to react, process the Makaton signs, spoken words or sensory moments. These pauses are built into the live sensory shows as well, and are often covered by the actors travelling to each individual one at a time to explore a prop, or a quiet moment of reset onstage. As individuals accessing multi-sensory theatre are often non-verbal, it’s quite rare to have anyone shouting such verbose sentences in the show. That’s not to say the shows and audience are not noisy or even verbal! There are many times during a show when an audience member has vocalised in joy, frustration, confusion or simply to enjoy the sensation of producing sound! Indeed, such moments of reaction are often encouraged, acknowledged and shared by the performers. I completely understand the reviewers experience will be of more typical children’s theatre shows, where the pace is racy and punchy to capture attention and keep it. The reviewer is right that for neurotypical children, it might offer an opportunity to interrupt, but any knowledge of the intended audience would make this comment obsolete. Perhaps in future reach out to those in this community and with knowledge of this theatre, either for advice and with questions. Or even ask us to review the show, with the intended audience?

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