Dear Santa is Chichester Festival Theatre's festive treat
Dear Santa returns to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre this Christmas in a classic treat for the little ones (December 5-24).
Santa is determined to deliver a Christmas present to our little hero Sarah. But he doesn’t get it right straight away.
With the help of his cheeky elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect’, just in time for Christmas Eve.
The show is based on Rod Campbell’s well-loved book which Michael Gattrell adapted for the stage and produced when he was general manager at Horsham’s Capitol ten years ago.
“It all came about because we were developing work in our studio for the Christmas period as well as panto in the main house, and I just thought ‘We could do this ourselves,’” Michael recalls.
“We had a home-grown panto. We didn’t get producers in, and I thought we should also do the show in the studio.
“I literally went into Waterstones and looked at the shelves for children’s books that could be made into a children’s show.
“And I found this book that had 16 pages and lots of pictures and not many words. That’s how it started.
“I Googled Rod Campbell and found an email address and emailed him and the rest is history. I spoke to him and he said ‘I am not theatrical. I wouldn’t know how to do it.’
“He had been approached about it before but he was not sure.
“But we met up and had a nice conversation. He said ‘This is not a panto.’
“He said ‘Write something and let me see how you are going to do it.’ I did, and he came to Horsham and we still have a very close relationship now.
“Basically Dear Santa is a story about the art of giving a gift and finding the right gift. We decided to introduce a young girl into the story who writes letters to Santa, and we have given Santa an elf.
“Santa decides each time she writes what present he can send… but the ball is too bouncy and the finger paints are too messy.
“They go through a lot of options, and they finally find the right present which is a fluffy kitten.
“We first did this in Horsham in 2010, and it sold out. People knew Rod Campbell, and people knew Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo, and when you have got a well-known author, hopefully you are onto a sure winner.
“And I think it has been done every year since.
“It has done international tours. It has been all over the country, but you have to remember that it has got a very short shelf life because of what it is about. One year it played in Swindon until December 28 and that was a disaster. Because it is about giving presents, it has absolutely got to stop on Christmas Eve.”
Which is precisely what it will be doing in Chichester.
“It has played Chichester before. Two years ago it was in the Minerva, and they loved it. I said to them it was available and they said ‘Let’s do it.’
“Originally they only wanted it for a couple of days, but with the social distancing it is going to be easier to do it for a longer run.
“And also it feels very much like a Chichester production. My passion is entertaining and you have got the younger audience.
“I really wanted to be doing something for young children, and Dear Santa is so iconic in people’s lives. People love it.”
Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre.