The House Where Winter Lives: a Punchdrunk children’s performance not to be missed (review)

The House Where Winter Lives Punchdrunk promo poster

If, like me, you’d like to take your child to the theatre but are worried about their ability to sit still for longer than 10 minutes, then The House Where Winter Lives is for you this Christmas.

I’m not going to say much about the story, because surprise and revelation are Punchdrunk‘s hallmarks. And photography wasn’t allowed, so no pictures, I’m afraid. But let’s just say that gingerbread, a surprisingly young and ravishing couple called Mr and Mrs Winter (not a white beard or fat tummy in sight) and a larder were all involved. Plus fake snow. Lots and lots of fake snow.

Punchdrunk is an immersive theatre company, and the genre lends itself well to children’s entertainment. When you’re trying to coax people into believing they’ve stepped into a parallel reality, where a Stratford basement is really an enchanted forest, the children’s-TV-presenter school of acting (bounding about, singing loudly and brazenly hamming it up to meteoric levels) somehow jollies all sceptics into loon-faced submission. And it whips the children into line like nothing else can.

The House Where Winter Lives, at the wonderful Discover Children’s Story Centre, involved enough bouncing around to keep the youngsters engaged. But they were stopped from running amok by the gawp-worthy antics of the actors and a set so elaborate that it made Mr Bloom’s Nursery look like Dogville. I was sceptical about our 3-year-old Austin’s ability to focus for a whole 45 minutes, but he and two equally excitable little friends were captivated the whole way through.

And I loved it. It was a beautiful start to the pre-Christmas run-up, and even the cheesy ‘music of wonder and awe’ towards the end didn’t marr my enjoyment, both of the performance itself and the entranced look on Austin’s face.

Some children were a bit spooked by the dark sets, and there was a brief outbreak of mischievous snow-throwing towards the end of the show, but as there were only about 14 children (each with an adult) the actors were able to quickly head off any tears or misbehaviour.

When we went (and yes, I DID pay for this performance) it was fully booked until 20 December 2012, but there may still be tickets left for the dates through to 13 January. It’s incredibly good value, and the ticket price covers entry to Discover, which is a fine day out in its own right. Go and see it!

You can read more about Discover Children’s Story Centre here.

Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.

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