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Critically-acclaimed Dorset based company Angel Exit Theatre is transforming an indoor area of Thorngrove Garden Centre in Gillingham into an atmospheric wintery landscape for The Fairy Tale Forest, a free Christmas experience for all the family.

As well as being a garden centre, Thorngrove is a teaching site for Employ My Ability which helps students with learning disabilities and Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND), and many of the site’s students are involved in creating the production, some singing a specially-composed song, others helping to build the set and make decorations and, on the day, acting as guides.

‘Angel Exit Theatre is keen to do more work in the community and when I heard about Employ My Ability I was keen to work with them,’ says Tamsin Fessey, co-artistic director of Angel Exit Theatre. ‘And given the theme, a garden centre is a good match!’

The Fairy Tale Forest is described as a live interactive experience. ‘Visitors can learn the secrets of a snowy land as they venture through pine trees on a sensory journey filled with fairy tale magic,’ explains Tamsin. ‘They will meet the effervescent Mary Godmother played by professional performer Lynne Forbes and hear news of their favourite fairy tale characters in her stories, songs, and gossip. They can explore Mary’s gingerbread shop, the Ever-After Emporium, then help her on some special missions whilst exploring this magical immersive world.’

The Fairy Tale Forest has been created with funding from Dorset Community Foundation and Dorset County Council. Run by Tamsin and Lynne, Angel Exit Theatre has been creating theatre from its base at Lighthouse Poole for the past 15 years. For this show, they are joined by a lighting designer who worked on London’s Winter Wonderland as well as a production manager and composer. Says Tamsin: ‘Hopefully, with the cost of living crisis, this will be a chance for families around Gillingham to experience some real Christmas magic for free.’

The Fairy Tale Forest is on: Saturday 17 – Sunday 18 December and Tuesday 20 – Thursday 22 December, between 10-11am, 12 – 1pm and 2.30 – 3.30pm. Free; no booking required. The queue closes 15 minutes before each session ends.

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