THE national elf service is in good festive cheer in York Theatre Royal's Christmas show for three year olds and upwards.

York playwright Mike Kenny has revived his two-hander adaptation of Grimm's fairytale, the one where once upon a time, there were two shoemakers who were very old and very poor. So poor , they could not afford to buy each other Christmas presents.

Directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster, the hour-long show opens with the house closed up, with a hillside row of miniature houses lit up behind in Hannah Sibai's enchanting set design.

When it opens up like a doll's house, the Shoemakers (Niall Costigan and Peyvand Sadeghian) are revealed, but festive spirit is sadly absent. There is no wood for the fire, no bread in the bread bin, and they are down to their last piece of leather for making shoes in their frosty-windowed home and workshop.

As Christmas fast approaches, however, as the snow falls and the clock strikes midnight, suddenly elves are in the building. Two of them, mischievous but hard working, and seen here in expressive puppet form, designed by the skilled Peter O'Rourke and animated amusingly and attentively with an air of magic by Costigan and Sadeghian.

Forster's show is not in a rush – unlike so many children's festive performances – allowing the magic to seep in gradually, aided by Ivan Stott's songs bearing a hushed sense of wonder too.

The Elves And The Shoemakers, York Theatre Royal Studio, until January 5. Box office: 01904 623568 or at