AUDIENCES are going to be taken on a “magical” adventure this Christmas at Salisbury Playhouse.

Little Robin Redbreast is in the Main House until December 27. The musical has been written by Glyn Kerslake and Gareth Machin with a cast featuring Bernadette Bangura, Ryan Heenan, Philippa Hogg and Dan Smith.

Robin, played by Ryan, is a boy who is a “dreamer and loves big adventures”. After seeing a robin when opening his advent calendar he imagines he is that little bird and takes his family, and audiences, on a festive journey.

Salisbury Journal: Little Robin Redbreast - Salisbury Playhouse Picture by Helen Maybanks Little Robin Redbreast - Salisbury Playhouse Picture by Helen Maybanks

The production was previously staged in the more intimate setting of The Salberg back in 2017.

Dan, who stars in the show and is also musical director, says: “It’s really lovely coming back and revisiting something I knew. There are quite a lot of changes but it is a really fun score to play. Glyn and Gareth have written a really lovely set of songs for me to play, which makes it really enjoyable every time I do it. Having already done a run of it it still feels fresh and interesting each time.”

“It is a really charming and sweet show,” he adds.

Both Dan, who is also the musical director, and Ryan have previously performed at the Playhouse

Ryan adds: “This is the second time I have done a show that Gareth has written. He’s got a great way of capturing children’s imaginations. The lovely surprise for me is singing Glyn’s music, which was all new to me. They are such earworms and lovely melodies.”

Dan adds: “It is one of my favourite venues and cities and such a beautiful place to be able to spend time.”

Director and writer Gareth says: “Being able to go back and re-look at a piece of work is always a great privilege because you had chance to work what works and what didn’t last time. We made a few changes and cut a couple of songs and written a new song and things we think work better this time. We’ve tightened some of it up. The main challenge has been, not so much with the script, but with enhancing the production and the design so it feels like it belongs on the bigger stage. It has obviously had to be scaled up.

“It’s not pantomime but it definitely is a big family show that feels that it needs to be on the big stage.”

Ryan says it is “really exciting” to be getting back on the stage.

Salisbury Journal:

On what audiences can expect, Gareth says: “They can expect a magical, festive hour filled with music, song, dancing, and lots of jokes. It is a really warm family show that hopefully is just a little Christmas treat at the end of this tough year.”

Putting on a show during Covid

Social distancing and delays on Zoom have been some of the challenges of putting on a show during the pandemic.

As Gareth Machin, who directs the show, explains: “It is a bit strange because we are all having to keep distance from each other and it is a very physical industry you have to work together very closely. There is a lot of physical contact and things like that that obviously can’t happen so that’s been quite interesting and challenging. But really it is like making any other show.”

“What’s been quite difficult is that it is a play about a family at Christmas time and there is so many times you want the characters to hug each other and we can’t bring people too closely together so we’ve had to find some ingenious solutions for those moments,” he adds.

Ryan said: “We’ve found ways of interacting with the audience. One of the things with all the Covid regulations is we want to avoid everyone constantly shouting out but I must say the side note to that is the way it has been spaced out and arranged is amazing. I’m sure it will feel very, very safe. We are doing lots of ‘clap after me - one, two, three’ and I ask everyone to flap there wings. Finding ways of being interactive which still feel just as fun and silly.”

Rehearsals were initially held on Zoom until they were able to get back into the rehearsal room.

Speaking about the online rehearsals Ryan Heenan, who plays Robin, says: “What is hilarious is when you are trying to sing together and the delays on Zoom. The relief of being able to sing together in the same room is amazing.”

Finishing on a positive

“Finishing the year with a production feels very positive”, says artistic director Gareth.

“It is fantastic to be able to be making work again. It’s obviously been a very difficult year for the whole arts industry and here in Salisbury it’s been very hard. To be making work for an audience and the fact we’re finishing the year with a production feels very positive,” he adds.

“Being able to open up now at what is traditionally are busiest time of year feels really important. We have lots of plans and ideas for next year but like everything we are having to be cautious about not knowing what the circumstances will be.”

Due to Covid-19 the pantomime Cinderella was not able to go ahead but it is hoped it can be staged next year.

Gareth says: “We have every intention of bringing pantomime back just as soon as we can. It just wasn’t a viable option this year.”

What to expect when visiting the theatre

Salisbury Playhouse has a number of Covid safety measures in place.

The theatre is only open for people to see a show and on arrival audience members will be temperature checked and asked to sanitise their hands as well as observe social distancing.

There are clear routes around the building. Drinks and ice creams can be pre-ordered and will be delivered to your seat.

Capacity in the auditorium has been reduced and rows have been removed to give more space.

Adults are asked to wear face coverings inside the building.

How to get tickets

Go to