Above The Arts 12 – 31 December. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Combining two of my favourite things – theatre and food – Flanagan Collectives’ A Christmas Carol is fantastic festive fun.
Above the Arts becomes Scrooge’s parlour – bookcases and fireplace facing the debtor’s wall – full of double entendre names and the amounts owed. In the middle of the room is a huge banquet table – but don’t panic if you don’t get a seat there straight away – benches are pulled out to seat everyone during the meal.
Jacob Marley (Jack Whitam) sets everything up by telling the audience that we are all spirits and must help Scrooge change. Lots of Christmas spirit was flowing from the bar, so we were all up for that. After a chance to throw a few Bah Humbugs around about the Cratchett’s and charity, Scrooge (Al Barclay) is taken back to Christmas past – memories of his childhood chase all joviality away and the actors’ delivery creates a truly haunting atmosphere.
Christmas present is represented by the delicious two-course meal, provided by Danny Jack’s Humble Kitchen. The audience take their seats around the table, and, if they don’t all fit, the “naughty table” is pulled out for the extra guests. That’s where we sat, slightly missing out on the community atmosphere of the main table, but having personal service from the cast, and acting like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. As you eat, Marley acts the attentive host, sharing banter with the audience, while Scrooge grills you about what Christmas means to you. There is a singalong, jokes and party games but, of course, there is Christmas yet to come to experience. This is a huge and sudden shift in tone, bringing the night back to the source text rather spookily.
Whitam and Barclay are fantastic performers, bouncing off the audience brilliantly and keeping in character throughout. Whitam was reminiscent of Lord Percy’s sensible brother and Barclay was a more animated Lurch – in the best way possible.
A Christmas Carol is the perfect Christmas night out – a classic tale told with affection and energy, full of laughter and warmth. You’ll leave with a full belly and a heart brimming over with Christmas cheer.