Waitrose and Partners Weekend Issue 579

25 NOVEMB ER 2021 4 6 WEEKENDING Events BOOK IT NOW Quentin Letts Photography: Manuel Harlan © RSC, David Levene, Andrew Testa for Tortoise Media, Mark Carline, Jay Brooks, Grant Anderson, Kirsty Grifän:Netåix © 2021 THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK The theatre critic’s guide to what’s on puppetry The giant elephant and Jack Wolfe take to the stage THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON The theatre has reopened for its Christmas family show, a newmusical about an elephant and an orphan. The elephant comes crashing through the roof of an opera house in amiddle-European town after amagician’s trick goes wrong. The local countess (Summer Strallen in costumes worthy of Cruella de Vil) places the elephant in chains and tries to turn it into a tourist attraction. Teenage orphan Peter (JackWolfe) realises the elephant will die unless he frees it from captivity. Along the way hemight also be reunited with his long-lost sister (a spiritedMiriamNyarko). The best thing about this show is the elephant puppet, which is enormous andmoves with adorable, melancholy dignity. It is operated by three people and as it lumbers across the stage, you can sense the audience falling under its spell. Strallen’s wicked countess is abetted by the police chief – energetic comedy fromForbesMasson – and by her henpecked husband (SamHarrison). The era is the early 20th century. It feels like the sort of town where child-catchers roamed and archdukes might have been assassinated. There is no shortage of o -the-ball detail to admire, numerous townsfolk promenading their wares and idiosyncrasies. I would have liked to have seen and heardmore of youngWolfe as the heroic boy. The plot, based on a Kate DiCamillo novel, takes a while to get going. The songs are not always catchy and the lighting is darker than onemight expect in a Christmas show aimed at children. But towards the end of the evening, it tugs on the heartstrings and there were curtain-call cheers from the audience, not least for the adorable elephant. Until 1 January. rsc.org.uk HMS PINAFORE LONDON COLISEUM Director Cal McCrystal is gaining a reputation for reviving Gilbert and Sullivan’s Victorian comic operas, retaining their 19th-century flavour but throwing in enough new touches to excitemodern audiences. Pinafore’s core story, about nepotismand blu ng in the British establishment, may never go out of date. Les Dennis makes his operatic debut as the First Lord of the Admiralty. Lizzi Gee’s choreography includes a familiar-looking figure caught on a zipwire. Zippy choreography and a generally joyous air. Until 11 December. londoncoliseum.org DEAR EVAN HANSEN NOËL COWARD THEATRE, LONDON SamTutty stars as Evan in this Americanmusical as the schoolboy who gets himself into a tangle with an apparently blameless fib. The parents of a dead schoolmate think he was their son’s one friend, and Evan goes along with their mistaken belief, in a story of high school angst, social media bullying and neglectful parenting. Although I found the 2015 plot a bit mouldy in places – the trouble with the internet is that it moves so fast, any script soon falls out of date – Tutty has an impressive voice and the show has resonated with younger audiences. Booking until 12 February. noelcowardtheatre.co.uk Get festive with an online wreath-making workshop, check out a Caribbean-British art exhibition or listen to a podcast about a real life love scam in Fran Quinn’s weekly round-up GO ICE SKATING Ice skating is a great way to get that living-in-a-Christmas-card feeling, and outdoor rinks open across the country this weekend. They include Brighton, in front of the Royal Pavilion (royalpavilionicerink. co.uk); Bath, with an Alpine lodgewhere you can sip hot chocolate (bathonice.com); and York, where you’ll glide around a 30ft Christmas tree in the rink (yorkshireswinterwonderland. com). If you’re in or near London, there are rinks in the Towermoat, at CanaryWharf, at theNatural History Museumand at Somerset House (visitlondon.com). SEE THE DRIFTERS GIRL Jukeboxmusicals can be heavy on hits and light on storyline. But The Drifters Girl (below), on now at London’s Garrick Theatre, has plenty of real lifematerial toworkwith. It tells the story of Faye Treadwell, the world’s first African-American female musicmanager, who steered The Drifters’ careers after her husband, their original manager, died. With Beverley Knight in the lead role, it takes in the highs of hit records and sell-out tours and the lows of legal battles and personal tragedy, with a generous sprinkling of songs you’ll know, including Saturday Night at theMovies and Come onOver tomy Place . Runs to 26March. thedriftersgirl.com GET HOOKED ON THE SWEET BOBBY PODCAST Possibly themost addictive podcast since Serial , Sweet Bobby is a true story about an epic love scam. Radio presenter Kirat Assi (inset) thought