What do you get if you rub one stick against another stick? No, not a punchline or a spark with which to start a fire, but, according to two unnamed storytellers played by Laurie Brown and Martin Donaghy, a baby reindeer.
The reason for (pardon the pun) embarking on such an activity? Having woken up on Christmas morning with nothing but a twig in a tin can for a tree and a smile and a wave for presents, they were promised a brace of eggs from their non-productive hen Esmeralda (who would prefer to be known as Joyce!) if they told her a Christmas story.
With sticks in hand, their re-enactment of how Rudolf came to be begins. First up, the virgin birth in which the simplest of costume changes signifies mummy and daddy: a green and yellow sock doubles as a tie; a red and white dishcloth, a headscarf.
Sporting a “big, red, shiny, enormous nose”, Rudolf (Donaghy) trots off to reindeer school with his father’s sage advice ringing in his ears: work hard, do your best and, remember, no matter what anybody says, you are special.
That is until he meets Olive the Other Reindeer (Brown) who christens him Rudolf the Reject Reindeer and excludes him from taking part in a variety of playground games including “hide the hoof” and the eyebrow raising “toss the elf”.
Shunned by all, Rudolph’s dreams of pulling Santa’s sleigh are rekindled thanks to a chance meeting with fellow outcast Ugly Duckling (Brown again) who encourages him to, literally, aim for the stars. And by the disco-tastic finale they, like the audience, are H.A.P.P.Y.
Presented by Platform and Andy Manley (who along with Ross Allan and Rob Evans created the show for a production at Macrobert Arts Centre in 2008), Rudolf is the perfect antidote to the tinsel and tat that passes for Christmas.
The rustic set by Claire Halleran brings to mind Auntie Em’s “there’s no place like home”: a wooden shack, henhouse and telegraph pole set against a vast azure sky. The lighting design by Sergey Jakovsky is intimate and warm. As are the performances by Brown and Donaghy. And the script, a perfect mix of slapstick, wordplay and storytelling, just like Rudolph is “special”.