Christmas Dinner

Dec 10 2021 | By More

★★★★☆   Touchingly funny

Royal Lyceum Theatre: Mon 6 Dec 2021 – Sun 2 Jan 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Christmas Dinner may be something of a stopgap as this year’s Lyceum show, but it proves a success in its own right. Amusing, energetic, and wearing its considerable profundity lightly, it should appeal to the widest possible audience.

With this year’s original production of The Snow Queen being delayed, Catherine Wheels have stepped into the breach, with writer Robert Alan Evans and director Gill Robertson providing an original play.

Elicia Daley as Leslie in Christmas Dinner. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Stage Manager Lesley (Elicia Daly) is locking up for Christmas. Not only is the theatre currently dark, Lesley has no interest in the upcoming festivities. The unwanted arrival of a group of spirits, however, threatens to change her plans to sit at home with a meat feast pizza and three boxes of Celebrations.

The story, although an original one, has echoes of many seasonal tales. Not only are there nods to several other shows (not to mention a gratuitous and wholly welcome pantomime cow) but the themes of loneliness and redemption are also familiar. This year’s postponed production is also referenced in the remarkably Snow Queen-like character of the Ice Witch.

heartfelt and expressive

Daly’s performance, as both the harassed and buttoned-up Lesley and the evil Ice Witch, is a heartfelt and expressive one. The spirits are equally impressive – Richard Conlon as an over-the-top actor, Florence Odumosu as a habitué of the theatre, Ronan McMahon as a hapless ghost on his first ‘summoning’ and Sita Pieraccini as the Bird Girl, who only communicates in birdsong.

Sita Pieraccini as Bird Girl, Ronan McMahon as Billy, Richard Conlon as Fruity and Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady in Christmas Dinner. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

With the aid of movement director Jim Manganello, there is a wonderful sense of fluidity and fun, both in the spirits’ original attempt to stage a Christmas dinner-themed show, and Lesley’s darker story which follows.

As might be expected with Catherine Wheels, there are certainly some potentially worrying themes on display. While many of them will upset adults more than children, there are certainly some scary moments. What is even more likely to inconvenience the youngest children is the running time of 75 minutes straight through.

a ‘proper’ big stage Christmas show

This may have come from a desire to make this a ‘proper’ big stage Christmas show, but it does feel unwieldy and slightly too long. Robertson and Evans, however, always manage to keep things on track.

Ronan McMahon as Billy, Sita Pieraccini as Bird Girl, Richard Conlon as Fruity and Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady in Christmas Dinner. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

The Lyceum is paid tribute by becoming a character in the story, with the contention being that the theatre is dying due to the lack of stories being performed. This (as well as being something else the younger members of the audience may not care much about) chimes with the other topical themes, which are handled with subtlety rather than being hammered home.

community and belonging

There is a welcoming feeling of community and belonging to a production that has its share of jokes (including one thoroughly lavatorial one). Karen Tennent’s design is constantly inventive and at times breathtaking, which can also be said for Colin Grenfell’s lighting. Danny Krass’s music and sound is also beyond reproach.

There is always a danger when a company so well known for shorter, smaller-scale productions is let loose on a huge stage with a (presumably) larger budget. This production avoids any such pitfalls being both grown-up and silly, both worrying and reassuring.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, EH3 9AX
Monday 6 December 2021 – Sunday 2 January 2022.
Evenings at 6.00 pm or 7.00 pm, Matinees at 1.30 pm or 2.30 pm
Socially Distanced Performances:
Weds 22 Dec: 2.30pm; Weds 29 Dec: 7pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Richard Conlon as Fruity, Ronan McMahon as Billy and Sita Pieraccini as Bird Girl in Christmas Dinner. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic


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