by Daniel Jamieson and the company.
Royal & Derngate Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 13 January 2013.
11am & 2pm 27-31 Dec; 2-5, 12, 13 Jan.
10am & 1.30pm 8-11 Jan.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 December.
Theatrical adventure towards a well-known story.
Last year it was Wonderland, this year Dickens’ London. Before those, in adjacent years it was Narnia. Somehow Northampton’s Royal and Derngate chooses Christmas shows remarkably similar to those of the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme. More importantly, and distinctively, these theatres have developed parallel shows for the very young alongside, and related to, their main event. This year, the New Vic’s education department came up with Tale Trail to A Christmas Carol (already reviewed), while the R&D brought in playwright Daniel Jamieson, whose work, particularly with Exeter’s Theatre Alibi, has included a lot of storytelling.
His Humbug is the more fantastic of the two. While Tale Trail simplifies but sticks to recognisable people and places in Dickens, Northampton approaches Dickensian themes less directly. While Staffordshire’s spirit of Christmas undertakes a guided tour of the Carol’s locations, Northampton’s, likewise starting in the recognisable present-day, uses sci-fi technology to measure Christmas joy and invisibility before time-travelling the group (hardly an audience – this is very interactive, though never intimidating) to a Victorian toy-shop where stern owner Humbert works with toymaker Trimble, the Bob Cratchit of this tale, whose tiny home sees him sleeping in a drawer.
Sitting on clouds to watch this, the young audience is then invited by Christmas spirit Noelle to help the unhappy Humbert on a flight, where he discovers a new freedom from his daily grinding for profit. Soaring on a cloud operated by the audience, Humbert finds unexpected joy in life, and in sharing the experience with the audience. It’s a new purpose he takes back when his shop re-opens on Boxing Day, offering the man who makes the toys he sells a partnership in the business – and smiling about it too.
Finally, young people and accompanying adults return via time-travel to their own day, job done. For apart from the imaginative adventure, the important thing is to show that attitudes can be changed and circumstances improved, that a form of public opinion makes its case and influences outcomes. Director Dani Parr and her cast ensure a sympathetic atmosphere, encouraging young people to speak up and take part.
Noelle: Jennifer Jackson.
Humbert: Leigh Kelly.
Trimble: Craig Painting.
Director: Dani Parr.
Designer: Eleanor Davies.
Lighting: James Delamere.
Sound: Martin Thompson.
Assistant director: Hazel Barnes.