REVIEW: The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas, Pocklington Arts Centre, in ‘elfomatic motion’ until Saturday ***

Matheea Ellerby’s Sparkle, front left, Jade Farnill’s Jingle and Dylan Allcock’s “Daredevil” Dave feeling the full force of “Elfomatic Motion” in Pocklington Arts Centre’s The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas. Picture: Abbi Eliza Photography

THE day before had been the Relaxed performance, watched by 130 people, appreciating Pocklington Arts Centre’s all-embracing community consideration in providing such a no-bounds show.

Attended by CharlesHutchPress, Tuesday’s matinee drew a smaller attendance, concentrated towards the front, with a couple of raucous young gents leading the laughter enthusiastically further back.

Such are the differing challenges that face a cast, in this case a young company featuring Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts graduate Matheea Ellerby in her professional debut alongside 2023 Hammond School musical theatre performance graduate and fellow Godber Theatre Foundation member Jade Farnill.

National Elf Service, Pocklington Division: Matheea Ellerby’s Sparkle, left, Jade Farnill’s Jingle and Dylan Allcock’s “Daredevil” Dave. Picture: Abbi Eliza Photography

Joining them is the more experienced Dylan Allcock, regular contributor to the world’s longest- running comedy sketch show, NewsRevue, and in-house composer for the comedy improv troupe The Noise Next Door.

He collaborates frequently with writer Elizabeth Godber and the John Godber Company, latterly serving as musical director for Elizabeth’s 2023 premiere of The Remarkable Tale of Dorothy Mackaill at East Riding Theatre, Beverley.

Produced by venue director Angela Stone, this Christmas show, the first in-house production in Pocklington Arts Centre’s 23-year history, has the Godbers of East Yorkshire at its core: Elizabeth as writer and her mother, the actress, playwright, director, drama teacher and youth theatre leader Jane Thornton, on playful directorial duty.

Writer Elizabeth Godber

In keeping with John Godber’s plays and productions, Elizabeth and Jane have their actors breaking down theatre’s fourth wall from the off, introducing the elves who work on Santa’s shelves for the National Elf Service, Pocklington Division.

Meet Ellerby’s Sparkle and Farnill’s Jingle, with their East Yorkshire vowels, and Lancashire interloper Allcock’s “Daredevil” Dave, with his Accrington burr and additional credit as keyboard-playing musical director and composer. Teamwork and bags of individual personality pepper their performances.

Survey Rick Kay’s set design, crammed with wooden panels, frost-dusted tree branches, propped-up skis, ladder, candy canes, boxes, battered armchair, patchwork quilt and Christmas stockings, plus Allcock’s keyboard, and everything is there for theatre of the imagination to take off.

What’s inside the box: Matheea Ellerby’s Sparkle, left, Jade Farnill’s Jingle and Dylan Allcock’s “Daredevil” Dave discover the elves’ Christmas presents. Picture: Abbi Eliza Photography

What’s that flashing away at the back?  “It’s an EPS” explains the trio in red & green and trainers. “The Elf Positioning System”. This alarm device will help them carry out their tasks before Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day in a race against time to help the shoemaker and Santa complete Christmas orders.

Their tasks? They include perking up a Christmas tree and its moody fairy (played delightfully glumly by Ellerby) and helping a girl (Farnill) whose nights are made sleepless by the bumps in her mattress (you will love the explanation). Then coaxing the runaway Gingerbread Man (Allcock in a gingerbread Santa’s hat, courtesy of costume artist Kate Noble) to return to work in a overrun bakery in York.

“GBread”, as he calls himself on social media, has ambitions to be a pop star on East Yorkshire’s Got Talent. Cue Allcock in Elton John glasses knocking out a rather fine song with aplomb.

Jane Thornton: director

The elves propel themselves from task to task, destination to destination, with the aid of Elfomatic Motion: the chance to turn boxes and skis into hair-raising modes of transportation that go down equally well with energetic cast and enthusiastic audience.

The skis, for example, are accompanied by the Ski Sunday theme in the eye of a storm as they confront the Snow Queen with her climate change plans to freeze everywhere from Hull to Howden to Pocklington.

How will the titular but so-far absent Shoemaker, as well as the elves, save Christmas? You will have to see the show to find out, but Elizabeth Godber’s comment on the potentially damaging impact of new technology is a chip off playwright father John’s political block, another tool to writing characterised by impish humour, fun, magic, mystery and a dash of pathos.

Christmas chestnuts such as Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree add to the festive cheer, topped off by a singalong rendition of  Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday beneath a spinning mirror ball.

Christmas 2023 saved, another in-house festive family show surely will follow next winter as Angela Stone continues to put her stamp on Pocklington Arts Centre in the post-Janet Farmer era.

Performances: December 14, 7.30pm; December 15 and 16, 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or

IN FOCUS: Pocklington Arts Centre’s auditorium improvements from Feb 2024

Pocklington Arts Centre’s auditorium: Upgrades incoming

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to receive funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to make significant accessibility improvements to the auditorium.

The Government’s Levelling Up funding for PAC will include an upgrade to the existing seating, with a new demountable seating system to be installed that will increase comfort for visitors and be flexible to meet demand for different types of performance.

In addition, access to wheelchair users and those with mobility limitations will be improved and handrails will be installed to offer better support when using the stairs to move around the auditorium.
The seating configuration will remain unchanged, enabling regular visitors to continue to  book their favourite seat position, but the scheme also allows for improved usage of the back row area to accommodate up to four wheelchairs with designated companion spaces.

The auditorium design – a former cinema – has been challenging to be inclusive for wheelchair users and those with mobility restrictions to perform on stage, but the new plans include the installation of a stair-lift to the backstage area to make accessibility much more adaptable. This is likely to be complete by mid-2024. 

Pocklington Arts Centre’s Forgotten Voices community choir member Lynn Drury has felt
frustrated at being unable to access the stage easily as a performer alongside her fellow singers.

“I have been campaigning for accessibility improvements to make the performance area more inclusive for those of us who are restricted in getting to the stage due to every direction being reliant on stairs to get on and off,” she says.

“On a good day, I can be assisted, but on a bad day the extra physical effort required can leave me in pain for days. I am so looking forward to these improvements and know that many people in my position will benefit from this.” 

PAC director Angela Stone says: “We are grateful to East Riding of Yorkshire Council, who administer the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, for recognising the significant impact this project will have on our community and our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

“20 per cent match funding has been allocated from our reserve funds as a contribution to the overall scheme of works, which will include the replacement of carpeting, decoration and the installation of LED house lights to improve energy efficiency and light quality.”

Pocklington Arts Centre’s stage: Accessibility improvements to be installed

Pocklington Town Council Mayor, Councillor Roly Cronshaw, says: “We support these improvements and look forward to seeing the results when the full scheme concludes by mid-2024.

“A lot of work has already been done to ensure a thorough procurement process and we are very grateful to Councillor Sue Carden, a retired quantity surveyor, for her significant contribution to the management of the project”.

The majority of the building work will begin in January 2024, with preparations for the work scheduled from Monday, December 18. 

“Pocklington Arts Centre staff and volunteers recognise the positive impact these changes will have on the visitor experience, but also wish to respect the heritage of the existing seating,” says Angela.

“A bank of three seats will be retained and, where possible, other seats may be re-utilised elsewhere. It is anticipated that there may be around 180 seats available for collectors to purchase by donation. Anyone interested should contact

“Any funds received through the sale or auction of these seats will be reinvested in the arts centre for ongoing maintenance and improvements.” 

A number of seat plaques will be retained and a campaign to “sponsor a seat” is being launched today (15/12/2023), offering patrons the opportunity to have their name fixed to the seat for the planned unveiling during next February.  

Pocklington Arts Centre will be closed to the public from Thursday, December 21. The community café will reopen from Tuesday, January 9 and Singing for Fun from Thursday, January 11 in the studio space, which will remain accessible during the works.

PAC’s other community groups will meet in the Studio during this time and new members will be welcomed to: Forgotten Voices on Tuesdays, from 7pm to 8.45pm, from January 9, Wolds Wonders on Wednesdays, 10am to 3pm, from January 10, and Thunk-It Youth Theatre on Wednesdays, 4.30pm to 5.30pm, age six to 11, and 5.30pm to 6.30pm, age 11+, from January 10. Pre-booking is required on 01759 301547 or at

The first live public performance in the revamped auditorium will be Top Secret: The Magic Of Science on Saturday, February 10 at 2.30pm.