AFTER two years of delighting audiences with their anarchic and hilarious pantomime Cinderella And The Beanstalk at Theatre503, the Sleeping Trees boys will be returning to the Battersea theatre with a new show this festive season.
Scrooge And The Seven Dwarves promises to be every bit as funny, wacky and wonderful as their previous offering and is on at the Latchmere Road pub’s upstairs theatre until Saturday, January 7.
The story is simple. One cold Christmas Eve, Father Christmas and his elves are preparing for another busy night. The reindeer are ready and the sleigh is packed.
There’s just one problem, the sleigh won't start because the Wicked Witch has stolen all the Christmas spirit - and it’s this that powers the sleigh.
In his desperation, Father Christmas looks to the most unlikely of heroes to save the day… the terrifying Ebenezer Scrooge. For it is he who is the only one who knows where the Christmas spirit is. But will he come to the rescue, change his ways and help save the day and Christmas? And what do the seven dwarves have to do with any of this? The only way to find out is to dust the snow from your shoes and head down to Theatre 503 where all will be revealed.
Directed by highly acclaimed Simon Evans, the Sleeping Trees - Joshua Smith, James Donnell-Smith and John Woodburn - recreate every character you’d expect to meet in a pantomime, as well as some you might not - from Scrooge, Snow White, the Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, the seven dwarves, Harry Potter and, of course, Father Christmas.
I chat to the guys whilst they are knee deep in rehearsals for the show and if they are exhausted from all the costume changes, character changes and general rushing about on stage, they don’t show it.
Indeed they are positively fizzing with energy and good humour and tell me they are excited about coming back to Theatre503 for another year.
“It’s all going well so far,” says John. “We are just tidying it all up, getting it all into shape and can’t wait to get out there.
“Over the past two years we’ve built up a great relationship with the Theatre503 team and so it’s brilliant we are back here for another year.
“It’s such a fantastic theatre and everyone who has been before knows what we are about so they know what to expect in terms of what type of show it is.
“But this time it’s a different story which we are really excited about!”
They tell me the synopsis was written about six months ago and since then they have been adding bits, chopping out other bits and generally perfecting it.
“We’d been playing around with different ideas and names and one of them which struck a chord was Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves,” says James.
“It intrigued us to think about this miserable old man with seven other but smaller miserable old men and it went from there.
“But we had also always wanted to do something with A Christmas Carol as we did an adult version about three years ago. It’s a great story and we liked the idea of making it more accessible to younger kids.
“And then of course we had to bring in loads and loads of different characters which is always the fun bit - so here we are!
“We have been trimming and refining the script on and off for the past six months so that now it’s really tight and we are really pleased with it!”
As is the order of the day with their productions, there will be plenty of music, song, slapstick, comedy and ridiculousness and a veritable feast of characters.
“It’s another character mash up and this year we’ve really gone to town on it,” laughs Josh. “In fact we have gone above and beyond with the amount of characters - so much so we’ve almost lost count!
“There is a dual narrative to it as well. As well as Father Christmas losing the Christmas spirit to power his sleigh, part of the story is about how Scrooge enters a fairytale land and we see lots of different fairytale characters turning him into a better person so that he learns the error of his ways.
“It’s a lot of fun and it teaches kids, and adults, the same message of forgiveness, right and wrong, and about the importance of being a good person that was in Charles Dickens’ original story.
“One thing we pride ourselves on though is that we don’t write jokes specifically for adults or for kids - we make it so everyone can enjoy it. So everyone will enjoy the slapstick and the funny situations these characters find themselves in.
“Not all the kids will know the story but if you can convey it to them through the humour and get them laughing then it’s job done.”
Indeed the show is intended for all ages and even if younger children can’t follow the narrative, they will enjoy the slapstick and silliness that is part and parcel of the production.
And they will also recognise many of the characters that pop up in the story - and this year the boys promise even more than ever, although they admit it ramps up the number of costume changes.
“Our costume designer is outstanding but she has to be because this year we have got tonnes of different changes so they have to be robust,” chuckles James.
“We do look ridiculous all the time and it gets a bit hairy at times as we race on, off and around the stage doing different accents, gestures and movements for the different characters as well as trying to change outfits.”
And John says at the last count there were at least 30 different speaking parts.
“Some only appear in songs but most of them say at least one or two lines,” he says. “So we probably have about 75 characters - it is a bit mental and exhausting!
“But we are quite accustomed to our way of life - it’s a great one to have!”
Scrooge And The Seven Dwarves is on at Theatre503, The Latchmere, Battersea Park Road until January 7. Tickets cost £15 for adults and £12 for children. Visit www.theatre503.com or call the box office on 020 7978 7040 for full listings.