Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Siege Of Christmas at Contact, Manchester Interactive Theatre Review

If you are looking for family Christmas theatre that is completely different then The Siege Of Christmas at Contact in Manchester might just be the thing. You have to be quick though - it's only on until 20th December!


We've not been to Contact before and we walked past at first and had to turn round - ridiculous when you see that giant castle shaped building with amazing windows. We'd been invited to review The Siege Of Christmas, an interactive performance that takes you around the building, rather than a traditional 'sit-down' play.


The show begins from the Box Office area just inside the main doors, so you need to arrive 5-10 minutes before your performance is due to start so you can set off promptly. Throughout the performance you wear headphones that provide the soundtrack to the performance, including the voices of the actors.

The headphones are individually volume controlled with a little radio receiver and it worked incredibly well. The receiver has a comfortable neck strap which you immediately forget is there because it isn't heavy. (Contact can also provide a hearing loop or transcript if requested).


As soon as the main characters arrive the action begins, and Christmas favourites start refusing to behave in a festive way. You meet mince pies, a sad cracker, rapping wrapping paper and a host of other characters. They say that they've lost their Christmas spirit, and it's up to the audience to find it - with a bit of help from a very unusual nutcracker!

There are a couple of truly magical moments and a few special effects that really added to the atmosphere and made everyone grin. The actors all made us laugh and I really wanted to applaud the rapping - it was brilliant. All of the children in the audience were well cared for, and several even had to hold on to important items that might be needed later.


There were questions, riddles and jokes for the audience to answer. Everyone in the audience joined in and it was smiles all around. The magic in the children's eyes was very clear and I had a lump in my throat at the end when we all sang a quick chorus of We Wish You A Merry Christmas. It was excellent.

The show lasts around 1 hour and you are standing or walking most of that time, so if, like my partner since having Meningitis, you do have limited mobility, you might find it a little hard going. There are only 2 flights of stairs, plus several odd steps and it is possible to travel an alternative wheelchair-friendly route instead. That said, you are never rushed and there is plenty of room.


My 7 year old asked if we could go back next year before we even got into the van. My 9 year old said it was his favourite show of the year and when he went to bed, my 7 year old said "I loved it". My partner and I both have a warm glow. You couldn't ask for more. Very different, totally unforgettable for all the right reasons. Who knew that's where Elves hang out all year?


The Siege Of Christmas at Contact Theatre in Manchester is brought to us by Alan Lane and Contact's Young Company in conjunction with Slung Low, and will be performing until 20th December. Tickets £5/£7/£13, suitable for age 5+. Best of all for age 5-10 and their families. Because the show is interactive, run length can be between 45 minutes and 1 hour.

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The Siege of Christmas is the final show for 2017 before Contact shuts its doors for a £6.75m redevelopment and relocates to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side for a whole year. During the year Contact have a programme of performance and participation activities taking place in partner venues across Greater Manchester. Full information on the Contact Manchester website.


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