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.  

Pocklington Arts Centre opens debut in-house theatre show The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas tomorrow

The poster for Pocklington Arts Centre’s festive family show The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s debut in-house theatre production, The Elves & The Shoemaker Save Christmas, opens tomorrow with the Godber family at the helm.

Jane Thornton, actress and writer wife of playwright John Godber, directs daughter Elizabeth Godber’s original adaptation of the traditional tale of The Elves & The Shoemaker for Christmas 2023.

This 70-minute, family-friendly, fun, festive musical show will feature three cheeky elves, Jingle, Sparkle and Daredevil Dave, as they journey through a variety of well-known fairy tales with a cast of familiar characters, leading to plenty of comedy capers and mishaps along the way.

Put it this way: “‘Twas the night before Christmas and across East Yorkshire land/Excited children count sheep as three cheeky elves lend a hand/Yes, Jingle, Sparkle and Daredevil Dave have gingerbread to cook, peas to find and shoes to make But who gives the Elves their Christmas? Surely they too deserve a break?”

Jade Farnill: Starring as Jingle in The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) has committed to supporting East Yorkshire talent with early career creatives and emerging actors to the fore in this show. Alongside Jane and Elizabeth in the production team are Rick Kay, set design and build, Benjamin Wall, production manager and lighting designer, and Kate Noble, wardrobe and props supervisor, while PAC director Angela Stone has been working closely with crew and cast as producer.

Hull born and bred Jade Farnill will step into the role of Jingle. She is a 2023 graduate and Godber Theatre Foundation Award recipient from the Hammond School in Chester, where she completed a degree in musical theatre performance.

Dylan Allcock will play Daredevil Dave with “just the right balance of characterisation and comedy timing”. As an actor/musician, Dylan will be responsible for musical direction and the creation of an original composition for the show.

Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts graduate Matheea Ellerby will complete the cast in her professional debut as Sparkle.

Dylan Allcock: Playing Daredevil Dave

Writer Elizabeth Godber says: “I am so excited to be writing The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas for Pocklington Arts Centre. Being born and raised in East Yorkshire, I grew up visiting the arts centre to see shows and films and attend workshops as a kid, so now, getting to write their Christmas show for children and families, it really feels as if it has come full circle!

“I’ve had so much fun working on the script:  there’s going to be lots of laughs, lots of live music, lots of local references and lots of Christmas fun that can be enjoyed by everyone of all ages and really bring the community together this December.”

The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas will run for 15 performances, including two matinees for schools only. Schools interested in attending those performance should contact the box office on 01759 301547 or email as they are not bookable online.

Matheea Ellerby: Making her professional debut as Sparkle

PAC is offering a relaxed performance on Sunday at 10.30am for families that require a more relaxed environment when going to the theatre. This will include house lights (rather than dark), a relaxed attitude to involuntary sounds and moving around the auditorium during the performance, a straight run through with no interval, and a quiet break-out space available.

For that show, a section of seats with social distancing is reserved to support those who may prefer some spaces between parties. Four blocks of four seats and one block of two seats can be pre-booked through the box office.

The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas, Pocklington Arts Centre, December 7 to 16. Performances: 7.30pm, December 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15 and 16; 1.30pm, December 9, 10, 15 and 16; 10.30am, December 10. Tickets (£12 adults, £9 under 25s, £35 family of four) can be booked at or on 01759 301547.

Elizabeth Godber

Elizabeth Godber: the back story

Hull-born writer. Studied BA in Creative Writing and English at University of Hull and MA in Writing for Performance and Publication at University of Leeds. Now PhD student at University of Hull.

Her 2023 adaptation of The Comedy of Errors (More Or Less), co-written with Nick Lane for Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and Shakespeare North Playhouse, has been nominated for UK Theatre Award. 

Her 2023 play The Remarkable Tale of Dorothy Mackaill was premiered at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, in September.

Further writing credits: Ruby And The Vinyl (John Godber Company/tour); M&S: Dressed In Time (Leeds Playhouse); Three Emos (tour); The Remarkable Tale Of Dorothy (Hull New Theatre); Festive Spirits” (Hull City Hall/Burton Constable Hall).

Poetry and film/audio credits: Forget Me Not (BBC Radio 6 Music); The Way You Look Tonight (BBC Upload Festival/iplayer); Does This Make Sense?” (Random Acts for Channel 4); Restless Verse (online).

Last chance to see beside the sea: The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough *****

Andy Cryer’s slimy Solinus in The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less) at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Patch Dolan

REVIEW: Stephen Joseph Theatre and Shakespeare North Playhouse in The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01723 370541 or

THIS Comedy Of Errors gets everything right. Not more or less. Just right. Full stop.

Shakespeare’s “most bonkers farce” has been entrusted to Nick Lane, madly inventive writer of the SJT’s equally bonkers pantomime, and Elizabeth Godber, a blossoming writing talent from the East Yorkshire theatrical family.  

How does this new partnership work? In a nutshell, Lane has penned the men’s lines, Godber, the female ones, before the duo moulded the finale in tandem.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, meanwhile, selected a criminally good play list of Eighties’ guilty pleasures, from Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t It Be Good to Toni Basil’s Mickey, Cher’s Just Like Jesse James to Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, to be sung in character or as an ensemble with Northern Chorus oomph.

Aptly, the opening number is an ensemble rendition of Dream Academy’s one-hit wonder, Life In A Northern Town, that town being 1980s’ Scarborough, just as Lane always roots his pantomimes in the Yorkshire resort.

From an original idea by Robinson, Lane and Godber’s reinvention of Shakespeare’s comedy is not too far-fetched but far enough removed to take on its own personality and, frankly, be much, much funnier as a result. To the point where one woman in the front row was in the grip of a fit of giggles. Yes, that joyous.

For Ephesus, a city on the Ionian coast with a busy port, read Scarborough, a town on the Yorkshire coast with a fishing harbour, although all the fish and chip cafés were shut without explanation on the evening of the press night. Was something fishy going on?

Ephesus was governed by Duke Solinus; Scarborough is run by Andy Cryer’s vainglorious Solinus. Still the merry-go-round action is spun around mainly outdoor public spaces on Jessica Curtis’s set, where protagonists bump into each other like dodgem cars. Just as Syracusans were subject to strict rules in the original play, now Lancastrians are given the Yorkshire cold shoulder in a new war of the roses, besmirched Eccles Cakes et al.

Sing when you’re twinning: David Kirkbride’s Antipholus of Scarborough and Oliver Mawdsley’s Dromio of Prescot in the SJT’s highly musical The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less). Picture: Patch Dolan

So begins a tale of two rival states and two sets of mismatched twins (Antipholus and Dromio times two) on one nutty day at the seaside. Cue a mishmash of mistaken identities, mayhem agogo, and merriment to the manic max, conducted at an ever more frenetic lick.

It worked wonders for Richard Bean in One Man, Two Guvnors, his Swinging Sixties’ revamp of Goldoni’s 1743 Italian Commedia dell’arte farce, The Servant Of Two Masters, setting his gloriously chaotic caper, as chance would have it, in another English resort: Brighton. Now The Comedy Of Errors evens up the mathematical equation for two plus two to equal comedy nirvana from so much division.

One ‘guvnor’, Lancastrian comic actor Antipholus of Prescot (Peter Kirkbride) crosses the Pennine divide to perform his one-man show. Trouble is, everyone has booked tickets for the talent show across the bay, starring t’other ‘guvnor’, the twin brother he has never met, Antipholus of Scarborough (David Kirkbride, different first name, but same actor, giving licence for amusing parallel biographies in the programme).

The two ‘servants’ of the piece, Dromio of Prescot and Scarborough respectively (Oliver/Zach  Mawdsley), are equally unaware of the other’s presence, compounding a trail of confusion rooted in Scarborough’s Antipholus owing money everywhere but still promising his wife a gold chain. He needs to win the contest to appease Scarborough’s more unsavoury sorts.

Kirkbride takes the acting honours in his hyperactive double act with himself, Mawdsley a deux  is a picture of perplexity; Cryer, in his 40th year of SJT productions, is comedy gold as ever in chameleon roles; likewise, Claire Eden fills the stage with diverse riotous, no-nonsense character, whether from Lancashire or Yorkshire.

Valerie Antwi, Alyce Liburd and Ida Regan, each required to put up with the maelstrom of male malarkey, add so much to the comedic commotion, on song throughout too.

Under Robinson’s zesty, witty direction, everything in Scarborough must be all at sea and yet somehow emerge as comic plain sailing, breaking down theatre’s fourth wall to forewarn with a knowing wink of the need to suspend disbelief when seeing how the company will play the two sets of twins once, spoiler alert, they finally meet.

Who knew shaken-and-stirred Shakespeare could be this much fun, enjoying life in the fast Lane with Godber gumption galore too. Add the Yorkshire-Lancashire spat and those Eighties’ pop bangers, Wayne Parsons’ choreography and the fabulous costumes, and this is the best Bard comedy bar none since Joyce Branagh’s Jazz Age Twelfth Night for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York in 2019.

When The Comedy Of Errors meets the 1980s, the laughs are even bigger than the shoulder pads. A case of more, not less.

John Godber’s B&B comedy Sunny Side Up! is up for a return to Stephen Joseph Theatre

John Godber and Jane Thornton premiering Sunny Side Up! at the Stephen Joseph Theatre last October. Picture: Martha Godber

THE John Godber Company returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre next month with Sunny Side Up!, the coastal comedy premiered by the Godbers in a family bubble at the Scarborough theatre last autumn.

Rehearsed at home, John Godber’s play played to socially distanced sell-out audiences at the end of October 2020, just before the start of the second pandemic lockdown. From October 7 to 9, it will be performed before a socially distanced audience once more in the Round.

Writer-director Godber will reprise his role as Barney alongside his wife, fellow writer Jane Thornton, and daughter, Martha Godber. Daughter Elizabeth completes the family line-up as company stage manager; Graham Kirk provides the design and lighting.

In Godber’s moving account of a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it, down-to-earth proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina share stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy.

Jane Thornton and Martha Godber in a scene from last October’s premiere of John Godber’s Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Elizabeth Godber

“If you’re thinking of holidaying at home this year, why not book into the Sunny Side Boarding House soon,” invites Godber, whose seaside feel-good rollercoaster digs into the essence of “staycations”.

Godber’s play is told in his signature style, blending authenticity and pathos as he addresses the problems of levelling up, leaving home and never forgetting where you come from.

This John Godber Company and Theatre Royal, Wakefield production can be seen at the SJT on October 7 at 1.30pm and 7.30pm, October 8, 7.30pm, and October 9, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets, priced from £10, are available on 01723 370541 and at

Barney trouble: John Godber in the role of struggling B&B proprietor Barney in Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Martha Godber