Lyceum Christmas Tales I-IV

Dec 12 2020 | By More

★★★★☆   Tasty selection

Lyceum online: Tues 1- Sat 20 Dec 2020
Review by Hugh Simpson

With festive theatre lacking like so much in 2020, the Lyceum’s online Christmas Tales go along way towards compensating.

While the plan to present the stories to a live audience has gone the same way as the original production of The Snow Queen, a new story is streamed free online every other day between 1 and 15 December, with the final four streamed live onstage with musical interludes between 16 and 20 December.

Cal MacAninch in A Fairy Tale by Morna Young. Screenshot.

The first four of the eight online offerings are certainly no afterthought. Real care, skill and love has gone into a series of compelling, humorous and affecting tales.

A Fairy Tale by Morna Young is perhaps the most traditionally Christmassy story. Any viewer of a certain age will unavoidably be fondly reminded of Jackanory. This is undoubtedly not a bad thing, as the format (of a storyteller sitting in an armchair) is handled with considerable grace. Young’s story of bereavement and magic has a bittersweet seasonal melancholy that is expressed with power and restraint by Cal MacAninch.

All of the stories have an appeal to the widest possible age range, and this particular tale works on several levels, being a delicate meditation on loss that is emotive without any sentimentality.

expansive performance

Loss also features in Nyanza and the Mighty Whizz by Mara Menzies, but in a contrasting format. Menzies is a magnetic storyteller on stage, and it transfers brilliantly to the filmed format in an expansive performance.

Mara Menzies in her tale: Nyanya and the Mighty Whizz! Screengrab

Excellent use is made of shadow puppetry in a film that makes no attempt to hide its effects, with an old-fashioned overhead projector much in evidence and Oguz Kaplangi’s music an integral part of the story.

Kaplangi and MJ McCarthy provide effective musical accompaniment to all of the stories, with Tom Piper’s varied design and Kate Bonney and Simon Wilkinson’s lighting also supplying appropriate atmosphere.

Andy Cannon’s The Stage’s Door makes the most of its theatrical setting, with a ghost story that is once again suitable for a wide age range featuring the backstage areas and auditorium of the Lyceum as much as the stage. Another perfectly paced offering, this is also an object lesson in how to transfer an effective stage persona to the screen.

weight and consideration

Karine Polwart’s A Wee Bird Was Watching is another contrast, with a more static, more traditional story of how the robin got its red breast dovetailing with her song about the bird. There is a weight and consideration to this that will appeal to all admirers of her Wind Resistance (which is surely everyone who saw it).

Karine Polwart in her story, A Wee Bird Was Watching. Screenshot.

Zinnie Harris and Wils Wilson’s direction is impeccable throughout these stories, with particular attention paid to the way the series has been curated. These first four tales are all wonderfully accomplished, perfect for watching in sequence, and certainly whet the appetite for the others to come.

Running times: A Fairy Tale 25 minutes; Nyanza and the Might Whizz 18 minutes; The Stage’s Door 14 minutes; A Wee Bird Was Watching 11 minutes

Royal Lyceum online

A new tale appears online every other day between Tuesday 1 and Tuesday 15 December. All are available to watch free throughout December.
Click here for links and details.

The last four tales will be streamed live from the Lyceum from Wednesday 16 to Saturday 20 December at 7 pm (2pm on Sun)
Christmas with Angela Davis, by Jackie Kay, performed by Helen Katamba.
The Christmas Ghost, by Louise Ironside performed by Ryan Hunter
The Returning of the Light by Lynda Radley performed by Kirsty Findlay
A Cold Snap, by Shona Reppe, performed by Irene Allan
Tickets and details: Book here.

Andy Cannon in his tale: The Stage’s Door


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