Sunday, 22 December 2019

"An Evening Of Christmas Cheer"
Nottingham Arts Theatre
You know when you have an advent calendar and every door you open, you get a treat? Well, this last month has been like having a theatrical advent calendar, but instead of getting a chocolate on the opening of the little doors, I get a little more Christmassy on every door and behind every door is a December theatre treat. From the first panto of the year, right up to this, my last show on 2019, it felt and looked a lot like Christmas after every show.
This showcase was like a present you didn't expect; a thank you from the Arts Theatre, which was most gratefully, and enthusiastically received by everyone in the audience tonight.
The show combined the talents of the adults as well as the Youth Group, who I saw last night, so was great to see a few sections from last night again from them. A mix of Christmas songs, both traditional and pop, and readings which really brought out the best of Christmas feelings in every one.
From the opening stormer of "Merry Christmas Everyone" through to the closing carols "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Hark the herald Angels Sing", they took in Mariah's "All I Want For Christmas", Wham's "Last Christmas", Chris de Burgh's "A Spaceman Came Travelling" and "Seasons Of Love" from the musical "Rent". Traditional fare such as "Silent Night", "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" and "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", plus reminders that Christmas is not always a happy time with "We Are The World" and "Do they Know It's Christmas".
There were also lighter readings telling of the lead up to Christmas and after Christmas with the New Year diet in view and a panto fave from Mike Pearson with his recipe of how to make the perfect Christmas cake!
So who were the donors of this wonderful Christmas gift?
Bertie BlackChristine Boothe, Glenise Ellis, Amanda Hall, Barry Hobbs, Jacob FowlerMike Pearson, Emily Ridge, Marie RogersAlison SheppardRoy Smith and Emily Townsend joined forces with Will Kent and Jessica Royce's Nottingham Arts Theatre Youth Group for this very special presentation.
So many highlights in this evening's show. I've always loved the harmonies of "Seasons Of Love", there was a joyfulness in the Youth Group's Glee inspired version of "Here Comes Santa Claus", anything Jacob Fowler tackles is always special, and his version of Joni Mitchell's "River" was spine tingling. Every carol sounded like a choir, Bertie's folky sound in "Spaceman Came Travelling" and his rockiness in the "Do they Know It's Christmas" Bono piece. For me Alison Sheppard can do no wrong in my eyes (my ears shout "ditto"), Alison and Emily T's version of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" from "Frozen" was gorgeous, and I loved the "A Politically Correct Christmas" reading, as well as the other readings, and then there was the Youth Group's version of "The Power Of Love" sent the chills up my spine.
The sound was excellent, thanks to Rob Kettridge and the lighting managed to create a lovely frosty, but at the same time cosy atmosphere, thanks to Oliver Read.
One other thing that I noticed as well was in the final carol, there were three of the Youth Group at the front swayed along with their arms around each other, which really summed up the spirit of local theatre and Christmas. They all looked as if they were having a great time on that stage and that made us want to be party to that great time. I for one was thankful for my invitation to this party, and I am now ready for Christmas.
It's been a very good year for the Arts Theatre with their luscious new seating and carpets, as well as the excellent theatrical fare they have shared with us all, and I feel that 2020 is going to capitalise on that success and the amazing talent that grace the stage, as well as behind the scenes.
Thank you for allowing me to spread the word of all that you do. I can't wait to shout about the incredible shows that are planned for 2020.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

"A Night At The Theatre" by Nottingham Arts Theatre Youth Group.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
This show is the result of 8 months of work, one hour a week, which works out to be about fifteen hours of practice, but when you see the results of that practice, it belies the short time these kids have had to get to the standard seen tonight.
The show is a showcase of various musicals and scenes from plays, solos, duets, and ensemble numbers but all equally enchanting with the second part getting everyone in a Christmassy mood with the full company singing "Here Comes Santa Claus".
What I love with these kind of shows is you get to see the more confident performers upfront, but you also get to see kids who may not have a massive amount of confidence, but who have a love of performing and they can be spotted in several sections. I know that this is massively important to them, and the theatre because you can teach technique but you can't teach someone to have a passion for performing.
I have had the pleasure of seeing kids and adults move from the back row of an ensemble piece to taking centre stage, overcoming shyness and lack of confidence to being, and loving centre stage adoration. That is what schemes like this is all about, boosting confidence and spotting talent; and there is talent within this group.
Pieces from modern musicals like "Book Of Mormon", "Dear Evan Hansen" and "The Greatest Showman" are performed alongside classic songs from musicals like "West Side Story", "Wizard Of Oz" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie".
Scenes from "Death Of A Salesman", "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" and "Charlie Chaplin" show what we can expect from the older performers in the future. Jack Symington, Kate Russell and Pepper Uleberg-Smith get to show their acting ability as well as their ear for accents.
I must mention Lucy Henthorn-Lee because she did a lovely version of "Maybe", one of my favourite songs from "Annie", and who could not fail to smile with the ensemble who presented "Fat Sam's Grand Slam" from "Bugsy Malone". Leila Bedford delivered a lovely solo with "Beauty & The Beast" and Hattie Campion shone as Millie in the "Thoroughly Modern Millie" section.
The ensembles were fantastic and they show what an immense amount of hard work is poured into these shows. Hard work from the Director Jessica Royce, assisted by Will Newsham-Kent, with the choreography by Jessica.
With this amount of young performers, stage manager Gareth Morris had his hands full, but he made it all work, smoothly.
Thanks to College Street Nottingham for the loan of the microphones, which really did make all the difference in hearing (most) of these young voices. Blending the sounds was sound operative Rob Kettridge,and providing the lights was Oliver Read.
I enjoyed every second of this show and applaud every one of the children who took to the stage for our entertainment, as well as recognising the work that is put in by the teachers, chaperones, production team and technical crew involved with the Nottingham Arts Theatre Youth Group.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

“The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by Blind Eye Productions
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
This dramatization of C.S. Lewis' classic, set in the land of Narnia, faithfully recreates the magic and mystery of Aslan, the great lion, his struggle with the White Witch, and the adventures of four children who inadvertently wander from an old wardrobe into the exciting, never-to-be-forgotten land of Narnia. The action features chases, duels and escapes as the witch is determined to keep Narnia in her possession and to end the reign of Aslan.
All the memorable episodes from the story are represented in this production: the temptation of Edmund by the witch, the slaying of the evil wolf by Peter, the witnessing of Aslan's resurrection by Susan and Lucy, the crowing of the four new rulers of Narnia, and more.
Rob Hurst (Aslan/Father Christmas/Professor) gets to play three very different roles, and as Aslan he seems to grow in stature, probably because of the prowess of the lion, and what a wonderful costume.
Marcia Wood (Mrs Macready/Leopard), again plays two different characters, but it's the very strait laced Mrs Macready that really makes you sit up and take note of, not only the character, but of Marcia as well.
Sally Nix (Peter) portrays a pretty convincing elder sibling, and Sally also shows off her stage combat skills in this one with some quite dramatic sword skills.
Callum Barr (Edmund) gets to play the child traitor who is swayed by the evil White Witch. I've known Callum for a few years now, and this is the first time for a while that I have seen Callum on stage, as well as in a strong lead role, and he carries off playing a character younger than his years extremely well
Madeleine Walker (Susan) I've seen in a few roles over the last year or so, but it's incredible that she takes on the whole persona of a child, making you believe the character of Susan.
Charlie Buchanan (Lucy) brings the inquisitive character of Lucy to life on stage. The exciting discovery of Narnia is instantly apparent on Lucy's face after her first visit, and Charlie brings that to us wonderfully.
Bertie Black (Mr Beaver) really gets into this character and the physicality of Mr Beaver and I love the chemistry, and fun he brings to the marriage of the Beavers.
Gill Cook (Mrs Beaver/Hag) is always a delight to see on stage, and as Mrs Beaver, she delivers a fun character-driven role, and a perfect match with Bertie.
James Waldron (Mr Tumnus) is another actor who gets under the skin of his character, and although I don't personally know any fawns, if I did, I am sure that they would be just as James portrays Mr Tumnus. He makes you feel sorry for his character when turned to stone for not doing as the witch had ordered.
Philippa Buchanan (Leopard) was unrecognisable as the leopard, as was Marcia, who played the other leopard. This is though a tribute to the incredible make up in this production.
J J Gill (Maugrim The Wolf) is also a character, thanks to the make up and wig, who I had to look twice at. This role is in complete contract to JJ's character because Maugrim really does have anger issues which really come out in this production. Great swordplay choreography delivered by JJ.
Lindsey Parr (The White Witch) would make a brilliant panto evil witch, because in this role, she really is quite frightening. Lindsey takes on a whole new and powerful persona as the White Witch, and also gets to wear some pretty impressive costumes throughout. I've seen Lindsey in several plays and musicals previously, but this evil character is one I have not seen her play, and I think I like it!
Directed by Chris Mercer, he is building up quite a CV of productions that have won awards, and with this production, while it may have looked to be a job and a half, he has managed to bring the story and the images to life brilliantly.
The light work helps us to distinguish both sides of the wardrobe. He balances the lighter moments with some quite scary moments. Chris is also responsible for the impressive, and simple at the same time, set design. I'll admit, I have not read the book but seeing this production now makes me want to search it out because I have fallen in love with this story and the characters.
There are so many things I love about this production, besides the story and the actors.
The brilliantly evocative opening with the black and white film reel of the war and evacuees, setting the whole feel of the story and era. Technical engineer Dave Martin and Projection Design by Chris Mercer.
The incredible costumes which I know took many hours of hard work to get to the wonderful standard we saw on the Duchess Theatre stage. This,as well as the amazing hair and make up were all by John Gill.
The exciting fight choreography by John Buckeridge.
Some nifty stage management by Paige Shaw assisted by Hayden Bradley.
This has rounded the year off just about perfectly for me, as this is the last theatre show, for me to review of 2019, and it's great to end off with a big success such as this one.
Here's to some more brilliant theatre in 2020; I can't wait!
Photos thanks to Gavin Mawditt

Thursday, 12 December 2019

“Guys n Dolls”
Bilborough College.
Set in Damon Runyon's mythical New York City, Guys and Dolls is a classic romantic comedy. Gambler, Nathan Detroit, tries to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck; meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they've been engaged for fourteen years.
Nathan turns to fellow gambler, Sky Masterson, for the dough, and Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary, Sarah Brown, as a result. Guys and Dolls takes us from the heart of Times Square to the cafes of Havana, Cuba, and even into the sewers of New York City, but eventually everyone ends up right where they belong.
Now, I sat through this production, and as I did, I thought, how lucky I am to be witnessing so much talent in one place and from such young actors.
Every single actor on that stage oozed personality, oozed talent, sung pitch perfectly and stayed in character the whole way through. I have seen several productions of "Guys n Dolls", both professional and local productions, but this production has now become my favourite.
What makes this production my new favourite? I think it has to be the enthusiasm that every actor showed in their performance, and this is a character driven show so there are many personalities to be shown. Sitting on the front row I saw every smile, grin, wink and gurn. I heard every word spoken and sung. I saw the raw energy of a group of actors who thoroughly loved doing what they were doing,and were good at what they were doing.Their drive and enthusiasm left me feeling dizzy, in a good way.
I walked to the bus stop imagining what this production would be like if they had the funds for scenery, and imagined something worthy of a touring show. As I said, I've seen several productions of this musical, but none had a cast of such young actors, with such obvious talents.
Time to break this talent down further....
Jack Neale (Nathan Detroit) is a good looking leading man who, like all of the cast, can carry an accent. His singing with that accent is great and I loved the comedy he injected into "Sue Me".
Megan Beastall (Adelaide), WOW, what character she projects as the whiny voiced fiancee for Detroit. Loved her singing voice, characterisation, accent and comedy.
Harry Stevens (Sky Masterson), another good looking leading man who is blessed with a talented set of vocal chords.
Abi Barker (Sarah Brown) really showed a lovely split in personality with Sarah as the strait laced Sarah and Havana Sarah. Her voice shows signs of musical theatre/classical loveliness.
Niamh Abbott (Benny) is another young actor who injects great personality into the character, and even when Niamh was not featured in a scene, her facial expressions and actions made me smile. A brilliant fun character brought to life by a lovely fun young actor.
Aiden Carson (Nicely Nicely Johnson) I've seen on stage before so I already knew what a talented actor and singer he is. These talents were put to very good use in this character, and especially in one of the most energetic songs in the musical "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat".
Loved the comedy, which I had never really noticed before in other productions, in the character Lt. Brannigan, played by Tommy Stewart. He has quite a mobile face which brings to life Brannigan's various expressions.
Because there were no weak links AT ALL in this show, I just need to mention the other actors as equals. Finley McQuade (Big Jule), Harvey Graham (Harry The Horse), Rianna Majer (General Cartwright), Naytanael Isreal (Angie The Ox).
The Mission members: Lily Soterioiu, Laurelie Abdy, Jasmine Warder, Eve Walker, Amber Scales, Rhea Mann, Samantha Hodson and Betrhany Skrimshaw.
The Crap Shooters Ensemble: Evie Farmer, Rob Cattonach, Bobbie Doggett, Charly Gatford-Ball. Emma Huxtable, Esma Alcin and Rachel Hamilton.
The dancers, choreographed brilliantly by Amelia Dawes, who herself showed off some very impressive moves, were Abi Stevens, Eboni Tinkler, Joanna Fullerton and Katie Tongue. There are many strengths in this production and the choreography was one of the big ones, especially in the Havana section.
Directed by Oliver Ridgway, assisted by Eliza Charnock, and this musical is not an easy one to direct but this pair did an incredible, and very mature job. Mature because of the comedy which was brilliantly timed, every time. A talented twosome.
The 14 piece band, which has grown since my last visit, and incorporates more instruments. Musically Directed by Alistair Beaven and conducted by Mark Wadey.
What also makes this show, for me, along with everything else, are the costumes. This is one of the sharpest shows, costume wise, and these cool cats certainly looked cool and very classy. We have to thank Eleanor Simpson for sourcing these.
The sound and lighting courtesy of Joe Lammond and members of the Bilborough Tech Enrichment.
This show is a massive one to put on, but the quality of this production belies the short time they have had to get everything together, cast, rehearsed, and with a combined team of over 60 people, it is no small group of people involved. With all of this talent, they have produced an incredibly professional show packed with energy, enthusiasm and drive, and I loved every single second of this production, and I bet that all involved are feeling very very proud of themselves and each other, as well they should do, as should Sharon MacInnes
“Guys n Dolls” is being performed at Bilborough College until Friday 13 December. You'd be a fool to miss the chance to see talent of this calibre on your doorstep.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

“Edward II” by Christopher Marlowe
Nottingham New Theatre
Now here's a play that I was aware of but neither seen, nor read, and after tonight don't really need to read the play, because this play, albeit slightly modernised, was just what I hoped it would be. Mesmerising.
Piers Gaveston, in exile from England in his native France, receives a letter from his friend and lover, Edward II. Upon the death of his father, Edward II has been crowned King of England, and in his letter he reveals that he has revoked Gaveston's banishment and wants him to share in his own wealth and power. Gaveston eagerly complies, delighted at the prospect of seeing Edward but also hopeful that he can use the King's affection to his own advantage. The King’s decision is one that is not popular with everyone though.
It's always interesting to see how far a Director will go to when modernising a classic like Marlowe, and I think Ellen Schaffert and G Brooke, whose debut show this is, got the balance right.
Their Producers are Sam AndrĂ©-Paul and Abigail Platt who both help making this play the wonderful production that it is.
The costumes are modern, the attitude is modern, the dance sections were something I hadn't anticipated but magnified the passions in the play, the neon lighting is modern (1980's), and the music form Depeche Mode gave the soundtrack a nice edgy feel, which I also loved.
With the play written in 1594, it's incredible that the basic content of this play, homophobic hate crime, is still so relevant today. This crime was rife in the Eighties, the decade the play has been updated to; it's still here today, but to think that when Marlowe wrote this play, they were experiencing the same issues, it highlights the sad state of affairs of society, whichever decade, nay century you live in.
I thought the murder scenes were very well done, nothing gory, but clever with the lighting and angles.
Barney Hartwill (Edward II), India Agravat (Isabella) also makes her debut for NNT in this production, Alex Levy (Gaveston/Lightborn), Jack Linley (Young Mortimor), Marianna Whistlecroft ( Kent), Adam Collins (Waewick), Kiara Hohn (Younger Spenser) - all three making debuts for NNT, Georgia Barnwell (Lancaster), Sally Nesbitt (Edward III/Archbishop of Canterbury) and Jacob Gausden (Elder Mortimor, Elder Spenser/Barkeep) really give excellent performances.
There are several long passages to deliver, and they are delivered with plenty of passion, and that is what pulls you into this production, the script and the emotive delivery.
I mentioned the Sound Design earlier, providing that edgy feel, so that along with the incidental music created a certain menacing, dark feel to the play. Arthur McKechnie is the man responsible for producing that dark feel with the sound design, assisted by Jack Ellis.
Sound and light go hand in hand with me, and the tight lighting cues to the sound cues were timed to perfection, creating a really effective reaction to the action. The Lighting Design is by Rachel Elphick, assisted by Skylar Turnbull Hurd, with Technical design by Jacob Dean.
Keeping the Set Design simple was a good idea as well, because it meant that the audience were concentrated on the actors and the script, but the minimal design split the performance area into the sections we could recognise for the various scenes. Clever work, well thought out and designed by Joe Strickland.
Marlowe is one of the greatest Elizabethan writers of tragedy, and this play epitomises that genre, with enough murders to sate any theatre lovers love of demise by sword.
At two hours and forty minutes long - including interval, at first sight may seem a lengthy play, but when you are there drinking in this great script and performance, it feels a lot shorter, a credit to the actors, directors and tech team for capturing your interest and keeping it from start to end.
“Edward II” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Friday 13 December.

Monday, 9 December 2019

“Seasons Greetings” by Alan Ayckbourn
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
The follow up to Ayckbourn’s “Absurd Person Singular” in regards to festive plays, and you can see just why this is a favourite for this time of year, performed on a regular basis up and down the country by both local theatre and professional groups.
It’s Christmas Eve at the Bunker household and Belinda and Neville are hosting. Neville slightly distracted by his various gadgets and Belinda tending the tree and being the perfect hostess. Bernard, a doctor, apparently not a very good one, Harvey, the Uncle is in front of the TV, watching some violence, and Neville and Eddie are engrossed in constructing remote control Christmas Tree lights. Rachel, Belinda’s sister is awaiting Clive, a writer who is in a non-starter of a relationship with Rachel. When Clive turns up, he seems to have eyes for someone else in the Bunker family.
Throw into the mix a heavily pregnant Pattie and her selfish and quite lazy husband, Eddie and Bernard's lush of a wife, Phyllis.
Act One sets the scene, and introduces all of the characters in the play, and gets you ready for an explosive, but very funny Act Two.
There are several wonderfully funny highlights within Act Two, which I won’t spoil but involve a brilliantly entertaining puppet show, created and performed by Bernard, a mechanical toy and the remote control Christmas Tree lights.
While being one of Ayckbourn’s funniest plays, he also highlights the sadness wallowing under the surface of suburbia and the pressure that some people are put under at Christmas to live up to what others expect of them.
Paul Spruce (Neville), Arwen Makin (Belinda), Dawn Gutteridge (Phyllis), Stephen Herring (Harvey), Matthew Clapp (Bernard), Jemma-Dawn Froggitt (Rachel), James Whitby (Eddie), Carrie Gaunt, who makes her Lace Market Theatre debut here (Pattie) and Steve Mitchell (Clive) are perfectly cast and the comedy flows naturally from them all.
You will find yourself recognising situations and traits in these characters, either in yourself or in people you know, and this is an additional bit of fun on top of this beautifully crafted comedy.
Directed by Peter Konowalik, and this is his Lace Market Theatre Directorial debut. Not only is his choice of cast absolutely spot on, but it's the little things that you notice that make this play such a joy for people like me to watch. The 1980's toys, annual and Radio Times from the period all adhered to
The brilliant set is designed by Emma Pegg, and again the little things in this set are so well sourced. It's also Emma who made the incredible puppets that Bernard uses in his puppet show. It is not just a puppet show though because it has scenery, props as well as a working curtain for the scene changes.
Lighting is by David Billen and he creates that "midnight feel",as well as the various time periods throughout the play, making us feel as if we were in the early hours of the morning or late evening over the few days the play covers.
Sound by Simon Carter, not only gets us feeling festive with a nice jazzy Christmas soundtrack, but also with the well placed and timed effects.
There are so many props in this production, as mentioned previously, which I am sure gave Kate Sassi, at times, a headache to source everything we saw on stage.
As well as being a brilliantly funny play, acknowledged with waves of laughter by the audience, it's also nice to see a festive offering that shows the real side of Christmas; let's face it, it can be a stress fest, and that is where much of our own Christmas comedy comes from, maybe in hindsight. But isn't it delicious fun to see this occurring in a household that we are on the outside looking in?
Like most of the productions that the Lace Market Theatre have put on this season, this one is completely sold out, so the only chance you have of getting to see this festive filled fun farce is to check for any cancellations at the Box Office, and have your name added to the cancellations list.
A wonderful closure to a successful year at the Lace Market Theatre, and I know that next year is also brimming with some excellent productions.
“Seasons Greetings” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 14 December.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

'The Wonderful World of Dissocia' by Anthony Neilson
Nottingham New Theatre
Lisa sent her watch off to be fixed, as it is running an hour behind, but on receiving it back is told that in fact it was she that had lost an hour. Lisa is now on a mission to find her lost hour and get her life back on track after being advised by a strange foreign watch mender that she can only do this by visiting a place called "Dissocia"
The wonderful world she travels to, Dissocia, is a colourful and off- kilter place full of funny and strange characters, a cross between the vulgarity of "South Park", and the comic puppetry of "Avenue Q".
However, something brutal and wicked lies just behind the surface of this happy place and once Lisa realises what’s happening, all hell breaks loose.
Anthony Neison’s play is dynamic and thought-provoking, full of music, comedy and sudden bursts of harsh reality, in exploring a world of psychological disconnection.
The play is in two contrasting acts, with the first a vivid recreation of Lisa's dream-like imaginary life, "full of colour and fun", and the second a bleak presentation of the hospital ward in which she is receiving treatment.
Because of the contrast we see the prospect of Lisa's return to wellness as rather unattractive. In this way the play attempts to give us a notion of how the condition affects the sufferer and offers an alternative view of conventional treatments
The lighting in the second, much shorter act, is, again in contrast to the colourful first act, stark black and white, with complete black outs, which could be taken as the days that Lisa finds herself in hospital and the various visitors to her bedside with every black out
Directed by Joe Strickland.and Nat Henderson and Produced by Alice Clothier, I can't imagine that this was an altogether easy task for the three, but from Nat and Hoe's past work, I know that they will have relished this different style of theatre.
Luwa Adebanjo plays Lisa and brings the two sides of mental health together incredibly well with the animated colourful side and the contrasting darker side depicting what could happen when she lapses on her medication.
It was a great idea to use the puppets as the inhabitants of Dissocia because that way it makes the other side of mental health seem more "attractive and fun" if that is the correct description of how we envisage what Lisa can see. But as we see with the "scapegoat", there is always that dark side looming.
Puppetry isn't easy, especially making it look as if it's the puppet speaking and not the actor behind the puppet. Having, in the past, interviewed many "Avenue Q" puppeteers, I appreciate the very different way of acting and channelling everything through the cloth on the end of your hand, and I think they did a great job with the puppets. I certainly found myself watching the puppets and not the actors.
The lighting for this show is very clever and represents the two sides of mental health with it's brightness and colour, and then the blackouts and bright white sections.
Quite a large cast for this one as well with many of the cast playing several characters, so there is plenty to keep you interested in visually.
'The Wonderful World of Dissocia' is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 7 December

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

“A Christmas Carol” by Derby Theatre Productions
Derby Theatre
Much as I love pantomime, you can’t beat a good classic Dickens Christmas tale, and immediately you think of “A Christmas Carol”
Neil Duffield’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story looks absolutely stunning on the Derby Theatre stage; the story is as timeless and as magical as it ever was, appealing across any age range.
The cast consist of eight actor/musicians and are Gareth Williams (Scrooge), Oliver Ashworth (Bob Cratchit), Charlotte Workman (Mrs Cratchit), Liz Jadav (Mrs Fezziwig), James McLean (Jacob Marley/Mr Fezziwig), Benedict Salter (Young Scrooge/Fred) and Aimee Kwan (Belle), Aimee makes her professional debut in this production, and Sophia Hatfield (Ghost of Christmas Past). These are their main roles but all, bar Gareth, play other roles as well.
There are also three teams of local young actors who alternate the roles of Tiny Tim, Boy Scrooge and urchins.
Directed by Oliver O Shea, he has based this production on the 2014 Sarah Brigham production, which I also remember seeing and loving just as much.
The whole feel of the production, the look, the set, the classic carols all make you feel festive, and of course the story of how this man had his outlook and opinions changed by what might have been, is a real classic. That is proven by the packed theatre.
I loved the wonderful costumes and that old style sound of the carols, played live on stage by the actors.
It has everything you want a classic piece of literature and theatre to have. Puppetry, ghosts, a brilliant story, live music, an incredible set, snow, a happy ending, a moving stage, and when you mix in a wonderful cast, who always seemed to be on the go, well it really has everything you need for a festive evening out at the theatre.
The story telling and dramaturgy really drew you in. Even though we all know the story, for me it was like the first time that I had heard the Scrooge story. You seem to forget the back story of how Scrooge became the bitter, twisted old man we see at the start of the show, even though this part fills the bulk of the Dickens story.
This is a production for all the family, and I've always thought the story a brilliant introduction for kids to live theatre. Panto at Christmas is great fun for children, but when it comes to taking in a theatrical production and to digest a story within the theatre, this has to be a perfect introduction.
I have a feeling that Derby Theatre have yet another big Christmas hit on their hands with this show, and deservedly so.
“A Christmas Carol” is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 4 January 2020.
Photos by Robert Day.