If you’re bored of pantos and The Nutcracker, this is the perfect Christmas show for you. I suggest getting to the venue a little early and having some dinner and glass of mulled wine in the cosy pub downstairs to really get you in the festive mood.
A play within a play, A Christmas Carol… More or Less is a heartfelt, fun, fast-paced production that had me riveted from the word go. The story follows Sarah (Nichole Bird) and Charlie Armitage (Ben Woods), a couple on the rocks with their marriage, as well as their show, for which none of the actors nor the stage manager have shown up. But the show must go on, and the couple put on a two-man production of A Christmas Carol.
The story itself is very simple – a young couple find a moral in the play they are in, after seeing parallels with their own lives. But it’s the vibrant yet nuanced performances that make the show really special. Both Bird and Woods, with expert subtlety, play both the characters in A Christmas Carol as well as Sarah and Charlie. Before the first act was over, I felt for both Scrooge and Mr and Mrs Armitage. There are laugh-out-loud moments, but also wonderful emotional moments.
Within the production, there are so many other small details that contribute to the ‘play-within-a-play’ aspect. Sarah/Bird works front of house and welcomes us to the production. My particular favourite is the programme, which includes a full page of biographies for the missing cast members. Martin John Bristow’s lighting also deserves a special mention. Given the small venue, I fully expected it to be fairly simple, using the limited resources to provide lovely lights that help give the story pace and clarity.
Whilst there are funny moments, I honestly did expect more from Mary Irey and Stefano LeVonso, whose Saturday Night Live credit is heavily featured in the show’s promotion. The humour comes more from Guy Retallack’s direction, as well as Bird’s frantic antics. However, whether or not the script itself is funny, the production certainly is; where Irey and LeVonso have perhaps fallen short with humour, they make up for with more heartfelt scenes. One thing I will say is Charlie’s change of heart at the end of the show, whilst very much in the festive spirit of family and togetherness, feels a little unrealistic compared with the realism of the rest of the show.
All the aspects of the production – the lighting, the direction, the set, even the writing – fit together perfectly to make this a brilliant fresh take on a story we know and love. If I were you, I’d get myself there ASAP before they sell out.
A Christmas Carol… More or Less is playing at the Bridge House Theatre until 22 December. For more information and tickets, see the Bridge House Theatre website.