There are few places more cosy to walk in to on a driving-rain December morning than Old Market Assembly, with its flickering wood burner, Christmas stockings and festive twinkly lights. I’ve written about the place numerous times in various odes to Bristol – it’s noted for being a great independent restaurant, onsite bakery, outdoor drinks venue, live music hub and theatre all rolled into one – but I’m ashamed to say, this was my first visit!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at The Wardrobe Theatre
It was the The Wardrobe Theatre that my youngest and I were there to enjoy (although we couldn’t resist scooping up a coffee and the gooiest of brownies on the way through), and Soap Soup Theatre’s brand new Christmas show, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, co-produced with Open Attic Company. These two leading Bristol family theatre-makers have teamed up to create a show based on Goethe’s poem (made famous by Disney’s Fantasia), featuring sophisticated puppetry and clever design (on until 31 Dec 2019, 11am & 2pm (11am only on 21, 27, 30).
Aimed at ages 3-8 (under 2s go free), we entered the theatre with a gaggle of excited toddlers to find the stage set with a curtain-covered, plant-filled display and two miniature houses – its modest appearance hiding a realm of magic that would imminently be brought to life ingeniously by the two actors.
Within a few minutes, glowing lights, whirling houses, music and the two performers set the scene and introduce us to Rose, a grumpy kid on her Christmas holidays being persuaded to feed her neighbour’s cat by her mum. She reluctantly agrees and ends up discovering a wonderfully-weird world next door, full of cream crackers, curious written notes, a highly intelligent (and seriously convincing puppet) cat, all powered by magic.
My favourite part was when Rose tries on the glittery magical gloves (specifically marked ‘do not touch’) and, unable to control their powers, causes a thrilling pandemonium to break out, where plants grow and glow out of control, soar through the air and objects gleam in all their neon glory (thanks to some clever UV black light).
There are quirky stage moments throughout (Rose putting her arm in a drawer and it miraculously seeming to appear on the other side of the room was a kiddy favourite), dynamic use of the theatre and audience interaction. If you’ve got a shy kiddo, sit a few rows from the front as we were practically on the stage (my daughter’s choice), and her three-year old self found some parts a little too real at this proximity! For braver souls, there’s a chance to meet the puppets at the end – a lovely touch to this Christmassy theatre treat.
Tickets: £6 for groups of 20+, ages 2 and under go free.