Christmas Dinner

A heart-warming show of joy and magic at Christmas time, Catherine Wheels’ Christmas Dinner, written by Robert Alan Evans and directed by Gill Robertson, is particularly welcome with no Christmas show last year (we all know why). It may not be the extravagant affair we have been used to year after year at the Royal Lyceum but this is delightful fare nonetheless.

A story to warm the cockles of your hearts.

All is doom and gloom at first as Lesley, a stage-manager, sweeps the stage of an empty theatre, refusing to join her friends and celebrate Christmas. The tension in the younger audience is palpable as yips of excitement greeted the slightest hint of action. Then ‘We’re back!’ cries Fruity, (a magnificent Richard Conlon) bursting on stage, a former actor hamming it up. He and three other loveable characters, the ghosts, or as they prefer to be called the ‘spirits’ of the theatre, want to bring the theatre alive. They must go in search of a story and in the process help Lesley to find joy again.

A peacock who does not speak but charmingly chirrups (Sita Pieraccini), lithe and elegant in a silvery bodysuit and plume of feathers on her head; Madame Lady (Florence Odumosu) wonderfully OTT in a voluminous coat, descends from a theatre box where she used to watch shows and is thrilled to actually now be on stage, and Billy (Ronan McMahon) the hapless goof who first appears with his head stuck in a cardboard box. This was enough to set the small children near me into hysterics. It doesn’t take much to appeal to them and this company knows that well. High jinks, mayhem, prat-falls, one brief lavatory joke, and at one point a pantomime cow which wanders across the stage for no good reason but set the kids into hysterics again. The Christmas turkey dinner set piece is striking and the characters dressed as the ingredients is hilarious.

As the spirits search for a story, there’s a hotchpotch of brief references to past Christmas shows: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Peter Pan (perhaps more for the adults or older children to appreciate.) There’s a rumbling groan as the theatre building itself becomes a character. As the actors patted the stage floor, ‘there, there’ the child in front of me hugged the pillar next to her, totally bound up in the make believe.

At last the characters settle on a story, as Lesley tells her own. Dark subjects are touched on: death, sorrow and scary moments, (the six-year old child in front of me with hands over his ears or snuggling close to his dad), especially the appearance of the Snow Queen, rising high in the air, her white dress a vast icy triangle, designed by Karen Tennent and lighting design by Colin Grenfell is stunning, simply done but hugely effective. But the darkness of the story is balanced by the happy ending. The audience are asked to participate in warming Lesley’s heart. No spoilers here but the scattering of coloured dapples of light is particularly breath-taking. I asked the child whose reactions I’d watched throughout the show what he liked best: ‘Everything’, he said (despite the scary moments).

A story to warm the cockles of your hearts.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

EICC

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★★★★★
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★★★★
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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

After a horrible year, stage hand Lesley has decided that Christmas should be cancelled. The only festive joy she wants is the turkey sandwich in her lunch box. So she is shutting down the theatre, turning off the lights, packing up the glitter curtains, the giant beanstalk, the fake snow and going home to have dinner alone...

But as the bells of St Cuthbert’s strike twelve, it seems the theatre has other ideas... from the back of the costume cupboard, a troupe of festive spirits emerge with an absolute sack full of festive cheer. Is this the last thing Lesley needs? or can this strange Christmas Gang and their stories help her feel the magic of Christmas again?

Join us for a feast of fun for everyone (even Lesley!) and make The Lyceum Christmas magic part of your family celebration this year. 

This is a family show for everyone to enjoy, Running time is estimated at 75 minutes - which may be too long for some young children.

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