REVIEW: The Night Tree by Second Hand Dance

There Is a growing excitement in Pavilion Dance Theatre with real Christmas trees adorning the space and their sweet pine perfume beckoning the children to take their place on cosy cushions.

Magical forest music plays quietly as the 2 performers set the scene by playfully ducking in and out of the trees, teasing each other, laughing and hiding.

I am with my son to see Second Hand Dance in their magical staging of Eve Buntings’ book, The Night Tree. A celebration of winter, friendship and dancing trees in woolly hats, twinkling lights and forest animals.

The Night Tree – aimed at 3 to 7 year olds – is gentle in its simplicity. The female and male duet weave their magic through the night forest in quest of a special tree from their childhood. 

The young audience are transfixed as trees spin on wheels, a large snowy owl sweeps around the stage and a hand-held, life-size baby-deer puppet peeps shyly through the foliage. 

The Night Tree packs in all the winter memories you can possibly think of, from tumbling snowflakes, to Christmas-lit trees and torch-lit walks.

The Night Tree by Second Hand Dance

Told through physical theatre, dance, song and soothing narrative – often with alliterative phrases that tingle on the tongue – The Night Tree immerses the children in a wonderful wintery adventure of the senses, as they are sprinkled gently in snow, or sniffed by an antlered dancer. It is a tale of prickly pines, cold December air, the smells of the forest and the magic of the animals who live there.

For those particularly spellbound, there is the chance to dress up as woodland animals and dance in the forest when the performance has ended. Although my son declines – at 8, he is probably the oldest child there – the post-show winter escapade proves overwhelmingly popular and we leave the theatre to a multitude of badger and bunny-eared children leaping around the pines in delight.

The Night Tree is a charming antidote to a commercial Christmas; a worthwhile and magical pause from the busy festivities.

Reviewed at Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth 23 December 2018

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