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).