Holiday Baking Time: sweet treat for little ones

I haven’t been able to find production photos for this year’s iteration of Holiday Baking Time, but this image kind of captures the tone.

Holiday Baking Time is designed for little kids—I’d say three to six is the core audience—and the only evening shows are on Thursdays, which are billed as “pyjama nights”. So the audience is insanely cute. I particularly liked the little girl in the giraffe onesie who worked her way down the aisle to get closer to the action, then happily frog-hopped her way back up the steps. Two stairs at a time. It was impressive.

There’s plenty of room for that kind of looseness in Presentation House Theatre’s generous production and Holiday Baking Time is an excellent fit for littles and their grown-ups.

It’s a show about—you guessed it—baking. And play.

Two bakers named Bun (Manami Hara) and Bap (Julie Trepannier) bake little buns during the show and share them with the audience afterwards. So it’s educational to some extent and engaging. We find out that yeast makes the dough expand and, when the players pass the yeasty mixture under our noses, we also find out that yeast smells like dirty socks.

But Holiday Baking Timeis about the joy of shared creativity too. Bun and Bap transform objects. Bun does a lovely dance, for instance, with a ballerina puppet whose legs are wooden utensils and whose tutu is a vegetable steamer. And, when the buns go into the oven and we’re waiting for them to bake, Bun and Bap launch into a story about a little loaf. “It’s a baby, a bread baby,” they tell us as they stick eyes onto a brown foam prop. One of the kids near me begged to differ: “It’s a potato.”

There’s a somewhat slack chase sequence in which the little loaf is pursued by a “yeasty beasty” (a big white balloon with eyes painted on it) but, always, there’s pleasure in the participation. When the little loaf goes on a sea voyage, we blow the wind into her sails and create stormy seas as we pass her boat from hand to hand.

In a nice touch, Bun and Bap repeatedly ask the kids’ help in finding objects they need to tell their tale. “We need four wooden spoons. Can anybody see four wooden spoons?” Then the kids who spot the spoons proudly troop onto the stage and hand them over to the performers. In its appreciation of object identification, this device reminded me of the picture book Goodnight Moon.

Performers Hara and Trepannier are sometimes joined onstage by stage manager Giselle Clarke-Trenaman and the three of them do a fine job of embodying the innocence of the piece while gently guiding the audience through it.

Joseph Seserko on accordion and Finn Manniche on cello keep the songs buoyant. (Yes, there are songs: “Go to sleep, baby. Close your doughy eyes.”) And Claire de Loon and Jessica Oostergo have provided truly lovely costumes: red, white, and blue bakers’ outfits in giant gingham patterns.

The gluten-free alternative to bun-munching at the end is to eat shards of those disappointing little sesame snaps. That’s like bad Halloween.

Most of the show, though, is a very pleasant holiday.

HOLIDAY BAKING TIMEBy Timothy Webb and Kim Selody. Directed by Kim Selody. Produced by Presentation House Theatre and Oily Cart Theatre. At Presentation House on Thursday, December 6.  Continues until December 16.Tickets.

 

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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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