EXETER – NORTHCOTT THEATRE
A CHRISTMAS CAROL till 1 JANUARY 2022
EXETER NORTHCOTT THEATRE– 01392 726363
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 10 DECEMBER 2021
Exeter-based theatre makers Le Navet Bete have become regulars at many theatres not least in their home-town. Back in the summer of 2021 as theatres were re-opening, it was this company who were ready and raring to go – lighting up the stages with their own unique madcap productions. Usually found re-working classic stories, in the summer they were finally able to bring their show ‘400 – A Comedy’ to the stage at the Theatre Royal Plymouth – not based on a well-known novel, this was fun, but lacked the cohesion of a good tale.
In deciding not to programme a traditional pantomime this year, Exeter Northcott Theatre have, instead, banked on Le Navet Bete’s production of the greatest of Christmas stories. This is right up the company’s street. How many versions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ have been produced for the stage? Many – I’ve even penned a panto based on it myself. With great characters and some splendid visuals to experiment with, I was full of anticipation that this would be back to form for the quartet of performers and their entourage.
Ok, let’s cut to the chase – buy tickets and buy them NOW!!!
Sticking really closely to Dickens’ story, this version is fun, irreverent, inventive, original, hilarious, touching, mad, inspired, clever and above all thoroughly and utterly entertaining.
There is not enough room to mention all the parts of the show which I enjoyed, suffice to say here are a few…. – a disco dancing Ghost of Christmas Past, ‘Walking in the Air’, the sleigh, the snow, the lighthouse….. Tiny Tim on a mini unicycle is possibly one of the funniest things I have ever seen – it’s genius. Oh, and while we’re at it, if you have any knowledge of the work of the boyband East 17, there is a sequence that will have you howling – with laughter.
I have huge admiration for the sheer versatility of the four performers, quick changes abound as three of them bounce between one character and another – along the way their knockabout comedy is augmented by circus skills and some wonderful costumes. However, throughout the show the story – full of universal themes – is uppermost.
Nick Bunt takes on the role of Scrooge throughout and does so with gusto and a joyful amount of overacting. Al Dunn combines a host of characters – standing out as Mr and Mrs Cratchit at the same time. Matt Freeman possesses skills with stilts, the unicycle and fire – he is staggeringly talented. Long-time collaborator, writer and director John Nicholson has taken on the fourth selection of parts at short notice and is utterly delightful, not least as the Celtic-accented Ghost of Christmas Present. They are all ably assisted by stage manager Fi Russell who works tirelessly throughout – and is also responsible for the set and costume designs!
The sets are cleverly constructed and manhandled with ease around the stage never allowing the action to pause. Props are clever and so well used. The lighting by Marcus Bartlett is a vital part of the production and it provides much of the magical effects needed for the story – as does the music soundtrack which is incredibly atmospheric.
A Christmas Carol is a show with so many differences, you will not have seen the like before and although it might not be suitable for the very young (the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is pretty intimidating – and awesome!), it has something for (virtually) everyone.
There are elements of pantomime here – the slapstick, the audience participation – which is well handled and not overdone, but as an alternative to the traditional Christmas show, give me this any day of the week.
A classic story given the Le Navet Bete treatment – a joyful entertainment by a phenomenally talented company. It doesn’t disappoint – come on, buy those tickets – it would be miserly not to.
CAST & CREATIVES
ADAPTED BY LE NAVET BETE & JOHN NICOLSON
DIRECTED BY JOHN NICHOLSON
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – FI RUSSELL
COMPOSER & SOUND DESIGNER – PETER COYTE
LIGHTING DESIGNER – MARCUS BARTLETT
STAGE MANAGERS – FI RUSSELL & JAY SELDON