Megan Ayto, 6, meets up with the Soldier, one of the puppets from the Tinderbox at the Norwich Puppet Theatre. Picture: Denise Bradley

Review and videos: Norwich Puppet Theatre gives a sneak preview of its Christmas show The Tinderbox

Friday, December 7, 2012
12.00 PM

A unique retelling of a classic Hans Christian Andersen story is set to entertain audiences at Norwich Puppet Theatre this Christmas.

Review: The Tinder Box

What a wonderful Christmas treat this is, packed with good storytelling, wonderful acting and ingenious puppets and effects.

The Tinder Box shows Hans Christian Andersen at his most playful, and the puppet theatre’s in-house production matches the tale’s original mood. In this retelling, the story of the soldier and the princess and their blossoming love is full of funny and poetic moments, like the little bird that the princess longs to follow into flight.

At the press opening, I was treated to a chunk from the middle of the show which revealed an interesting set with a revolving table, a copper kettle (a nod to the princess’s copper tower in the original) and a strange, gaunt willow tree.

The two performers, Paul Preston Mills and Seonaid Goody, engaged our interest without any apparent effort.

Puppets were simple, but often contained little tricks and jokes, like the money obsessed soldier whose tummy was also a wooden purse.

And at Christmas, what could be more enchanting than a story of a box which opens to bring love and magic; it’s a real fairy tale evening out, and well worth braving the chill December winds to see it.

Eve Stebbing

The Tinderbox - a tale of a roguish soldier who acquires a tinderbox which gives him the power to summon three extraordinary dogs - is the festive show for the Whitefriars venue and it is the first production the theatre’s director Joy Haynes has directed since she joined the theatre.

Yesterday, a small audience was treated to a sneak preview of part of the show, and Miss Haynes said she was looking forward to sharing the whole show with audiences later this month.

“This is the first home-grown production at Norwich Puppet Theatre for seven years - the others have been collaborations,” she said.

“It is quite exciting and I feel confident that we have got a show that is going to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Hopefully it will be the first of many!”

When asked why she picked The Tinderbox for the Christmas show, she said: “I am very interested in stories by Hans Christian Andersen, but this is a slightly different Hans Christian Andersen story in that it is related to a traditional tale like Aladdin. It is the idea of magic and transformation and how extraordinary things can happen - and that always works really well with puppets.”

The excerpt performed yesterday showcased many of the unique and inventive puppets taking the starring roles in the show - from the mechanical soldier with a money box for a stomach to the delicate and beautiful princess - and the audience were given a taste of the ingenious ways the show combines animation with traditional puppetry.

Youngsters watching an excerpt of The Tinderbox gave the show a big thumbs-up.

Sprowston Junior School pupils Eloise Mason and Joshua Ampleford had a great time watching the show.

Eloise, eight, said: “I thought it was really interesting and clever how they built the puppets and made the soldier’s money come out of his stomach.

“If I could have any job it would probably be a puppet-maker.”

Joshua, eight, said: “I thought it was really smart how they did all the animation. It was really inspiring.

“If I was a headteacher I would have puppet-making as a lesson.”

West Earlham Infant School pupil Megan Ayto, six, said: “I thought it was good. I liked the tree-house and the queen.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the show next week with my school.”

There will be a gala performance on December 15, and then the show will be performed from December 22 to January 5. Tickets £3.50-£22. Visit www.puppettheatre.co.uk or call 01603 629921.

• Are you involved in a new arts project? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk