Review: Victoria Hall Theatre: Once Upon A Time is the story of a great Christmas show
Entertainment / Sun 19th Dec 2021 at 11:08am
Review of Once Upon A Time at the Victoria Hall Theatre
YOU know if a Christmas show is a success when a child laughs at one line in the play and a second later an adult laughs at another.
That was a perfect illustration as to why Once Upon A Time was a near perfect Christmas show.
Firstly, it was great to be back at the Victoria Hall Theatre for Christmas after shows had to be cancelled last year. It was also good to see a packed audience at the afternoon show.
The story is as follows: four children are up in their bedroom on Christmas Eve and decide to play a game, where a story is built, one word at a time.
Their traditional story is of wicked stepmothers, creepy forests, strange creatures, heroes and villains.
This was such a warm, engaging show and possibly one of the best performances that this reviewer has seen at Victoria Hall (and the standard is very high).
There was a wonderful warm atmosphere to the set. The children’s bedroom was a treasure trove of toys and props.
The use of light, especially at the end was very impressive (we will come to puppets in a minute).
But at the heart was the quality of the acting. Each actor carved out unique personalities in each and every character they played.
They managed to seamlessly morph from very young child to adult, whether it was a dotty nanny to a puppet villain.
The four main actors, Drayk Wayer, Luna Austin, Sparrow Edwards (great Scottish accent) and Molly Jenkins (great hats) interacted wonderfully, not only as the young children but also as the other characters. Or to put it more simply: they were all at the top of their game and brought so much to their characters.
But they were also helped by a top class script. It is one thing to try and write a Princess Bride standard script but it is another thing to succeed. Simon Mawdsley’s script was funny, smart and uplifting from beginning to end. It allowed for adults to laugh at a number of jokes but it also allowed for the children to be engaged.
It wasn’t necessarily boo and hiss but it brought the children into the story and was entertaining enough for them to follow.
It cannot be easy to keep everyone’s attention for over two hours. Yes, they did stress to the wee ones that “it was only a story” but no-one was scared.
We must also mention three other actors, Themi Mazis, Lexi Johnson and Melissa Ricxhards, who were all also wonderful.
However, what was the icing on the Christmas cake was the puppets. They were incredible. They were made by puppet maker, Izzy Lacey. From Freya to Banjo, they were so alive, so imaginative and added so much to the story. They were worth the entrance fee alone.
These shows are perfect companions to traditional pantomimes, such as the ones at the Harlow Playhouse. Please go and see both.
It is also a perfect illustration of what small independent theatres can do and why we must support them.
For full details of performances, please go to
Great atmosphere in this jewel of a theatre. Granddaughters aged 4.5 and 11 loved it. The puppetry was especially commendable. Well done to all involved. Please support this community theatre.
Shame the customers can’t all park in the free car parks 2min walk from the theatre instead of parking all over St. John’s avenue
Fantastic show suitable for all ages,talented cast,uniquely produced. Throughly enjoyed.