Lyceum Christmas Tales V – VIII

December 17, 2020 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆   Fresh

Lyceum online: Wed 9 Dec 2020 – Tues 5 Jan 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

The last four of the pre-recorded Lyceum Christmas Tales provide another helping of laughter, reflection and hope.

Perhaps these stories are not quite all as compelling or as wonderfully accomplished as the first four. They are also probably best seen in isolation rather than as part of a box set. Nevertheless, they are all thoroughly watchable and suitable for all ages.

Garry Robson in Tiny Tim

Robert Softley Gale’s Tiny Tim packs a considerable punch. The updating of Dickens’s character to modern-day Edinburgh is performed by Garry Robson with real gusto, and the combination of seasonal sentiment with political bite means that it does justice to its source without retreading it once again.

A similar combination of tradition and local modernity is attempted in Bobby and Rabia by Hammad Chaudry. Within the first few minutes, the story of a contemporary Muslim teenager has also thrown in Santa, Rudolph and Greyfriars Bobby, and the somewhat breathless tone continues from there.

bursting at the seams

Unlike the other tales, which are content to be miniatures, this one is positively bursting at the seams, with constant shifts in tone and setting. It is always trying to do too much, and if it does not always convince it remains wonderfully refreshing, with Shyvonne Ahmmad’s performance tremendously poignant.

Nesha Caplan in Santa is a Superhero

Denise Mina’s Santa is a Superhero also shines an unexpected light on tradition. This is the one of these four tales that uses the form the most cleverly, with Neshla Caplan’s character always aware that they are being interviewed and filmed. Mina’s script provides a clever link between Santa and Scotland that is both touching and humorous, and Caplan’s sly, shy characterisation adds greatly to the impact.

Miracle in Muirhouse by Tony Cownie is the most traditional ‘storytelling’ performance of these four. Its Edinburgh-set, Skellig meets Whistle Down The Wind, tale of Christmas is as full of bittersweet seasonal touches, and of perfectly judged local humorous references, as you would expect from Cownie.

Tam Dean Burn’s performance is full of relish, pitched just right between the avuncular and the slightly menacing, capturing the ambiguity and essential goodness of the material.

Tam Dean Burn in Miracle in Muirhouse

Beautifully filmed by Aly Wight, all of these tales once again benefit from superb direction from Zinnie Harris and Wils Wilson. Design by Tom Piper and lighting from Kate Bonney and Simon Wilkinson also give each story its own identity, with Oguz Kaplangi and MJ McCarthy’s music enhancing the atmosphere considerably.

It is great to see so many of Scotland’s eminent theatrical professionals in gainful employment. For this, as well as giving much-needed seasonal cheer, these tales can only be applauded.

Running times: Tiny Tim 15 minutes; Santa is a Superhero 17 minutes; Miracle in Muirhouse 22 minutes; Bobby and Rabla 23 minutes

Royal Lyceum online

The first eight tales are now available to watch free online until Tuesday 5 January 2021. For details see https://lyceum.org.uk/lyceum-christmas-tales

The last four tales will be streamed live from the Lyceum from Wednesday 16 to Saturday 20 December at 1.30 and 6.30 pm. For tickets see https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/lyceum-christmas-tales

A recording of the live tales will then be available to watch on demand until Tuesday 5 January 2021.

Hammad Chaudry in Bobby and Rabia

ENDS

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