Review: Picture Perfect Christmas (National Gallery)

The publicity for this show mentions a painting in the gallery, “A Winter Scene With Skaters Near A Castle” (by Hendrick Avercamp, c.1608-9) which is “transformed into a festive theatrical production for all the family”.

Written and directed by Francesca Renee Reid and composed by Edward Court, the show was developed with Boo Productions, a company specialising in full-scale immersive experiences. Here that aspect is restricted to a slight interaction with some of the actors when you arrive to take your seats.

Once you move past the realisation that Picture Perfect Christmas has little to do with the painting it was inspired by (other than the Dutch winter setting) you can sit back and enjoy a festive family show.

Two children, Frederick (Ciaran McCormack) and Maaike (Elizabeth Coverdale), find themselves lost in a world of perpetual winter, with an ice lord (Richard Holborn) very reminiscent of Narnia’s White Witch.

Production photo for Picture Perfect Christmas

This chilly, hissable creature named Engelberg does have a touch of camp and perhaps, some scope for redemption. It’s a smashing performance.

As the children search for Father Christmas, they are aided and abetted by forest creatures Squirrel (Jaydean Cramb), Badger (Kieron Providence) and Stag (Madeleine Hagerty), and jaunty songs, with a little bit of audience participation.

The moral of Picture Perfect Christmas is help each other and they might help you, and to “be bold and brave” when you feel scared. Maaike is the more resourceful, but Frederick also displays heroism by the final scene.

It’s a charming piece which seemed to entertain most of the under-7s in the audience who were happy to shout out to help the story along. Some sound issues early on were ironed out but may be an issue if you sit further back in the theatre.

Production photo for Picture Perfect Christmas

Finding Father Christmas may have had a touch of the Tinkerbells in the callouts, but the man himself does make his festive trip into proceedings to everyone’s delight.

With a cast who are clearly having fun with the piece, Picture Perfect Christmas is an hour which will make you smile with detailed sets (the castle flips to make an icy woodland) and catchy tunes.

Book tickets for the National Gallery’s Picture Perfect Christmas – a festive show for all the family – at