Given that the Lyceum‘s latest festive offering is billed as a family show, you could be forgiven for interpreting as a show for kids. While Christmas Dinner wholeheartedly is that, it has enough perspicacious warmth and wit to melt even the Scroogiest of hearts this festive tide.
Stagehand Lesley isn’t so fond of the festive season. As Christmas Eve slides by and the rest of the stage crew slope to the pub, she closes up the theatre and heads for home for a Christmas Day date with a meat feast pizza. But as midnight strikes, a sackful of festive sprites creep from the crevices, full of consternation. How can you have Christmas without a Christmas show? They resolve to get Christmas back on track.
Cue festoons of Christmas – and Christmas show-related – paraphernalia. The Lyceum’s legendary costume store is given an excellent workout as we see wolves, wicked queens, long-haired lasses, spiteful stepdaughters, and a handsome prince or two in a quest to find the Christmas show needed to heal the ailing theatre – sickened to its bones as it hasn’t seen a whisker of festive celebrations for nigh on two years. The Christmas dinner makes a boisterous appearance in a riot of lights while accompanied by a deliciously jazzy soundtrack. The experience leaves Lesley questioning whether Christmas is such a gloomy occasion after all.
The set is stunning and just as versatile as you’d expect from leading a Scottish theatre company like Catherine Wheels, while the actors are just as engaging as you’d wish in a seasonal show. Yet, the real beauty of this show lies in the script. It’s full of a frothy silliness that has the littlest children in the audience hooting with delight, while also containing enough in-jokes to thrill the regular theatre-goer. At the same time, the story – or rather the reason why Lesley is struggling so much this Christmas – is touching and timeless. That said, it may hit too close to home for some families who have lost loved ones recently, and this dose of reality might not be for those looking for a distraction from the past two years.
The cast do an excellent job of bringing the story to life. Elicia Daly as Lesley is stoically committed to a fuss-free Christmas but is just sufficiently plaintive to make us wish for her to have a happy ending. Richard Conlon, Ronan McMahon, Florence Odumosu, and Sita Pieraccini are a suitably dishevelled collection of unlikely and unruly sprites. The Lyceum itself makes a significant cameo with director Gill Robertson making full use of the space to make the magic happen.
This is a cracking Christmas show from Robert Alan Evans filled with sparkle, saxophone, and froth, and just enough heartstring-tugging sentiment that serves to recognises the devastation the pandemic has wreaked upon the arts. Please go. You’ll leave delighted to have had a hand in opening theatre doors once again.