4/5 Stars

★★★★ Good Will and Good Food: The Flanagan Collective Bring Home Christmas with Dickens’ Classic

Harriet Bignell reviews A Christmas Carol at the Arts Theatre Upstairs

a-christmas-carol-c-mat-johns-3The concept of this play is bold and its potential success hinges upon two important factors:

Firstly, the ability of the two leading actors playing Scrooge and Marley to convincingly maintain their characters whilst engaging and interacting with an audience preoccupied with stuffing their faces.

Secondly, how well the play comes through on the high expectations set by using the ambitious word “feast” in the description – as I said to my friend on the way in, “If they’ve said feast and it turns out to be canapés I’m going to be furious.”

a-christmas-carol-c-mat-johns-5Happily, this play comes through on both counts.

As someone who has no stomach for pantomime, I did wonder how this evening was going to go down when the actor playing Marley declared that we should all sing a carol together.

However, whatever my fellow theatre goers lacked in tunefulness they made up for with gusto and I began to feel festive in spite of my predisposition to dislike audience involvement.

Being roused from your seat midway through a performance and sat at a long table to enjoy a two-course meal with perfect strangers initially felt somewhat disconcerting.

a-christmas-carol-c-mat-johns-7However, by the time crusty, steaming pies and crispy roast potatoes graced the table I was introduced to the people either side of me and full of Christmassy good-will – nothing to do with the Cumberland sausages that had preceded the pie, I’m sure.

The concept of reminding the misanthropic Scrooge what “Christmas is really all about” and convincing him to abandon his humbug-y ways was always going to be a little sickly sweet.

a-christmas-carol-c-mat-johns-6Christmas, however, is a time for cheese, in both the literal and figurative senses, and this evening had both in healthy quantities – coming down on the right side of that tenuous tightrope between heart-warming and heartburn.

The play boasts two very talent lead actors who were more than capable of hosting, as well as acting.

This performance achieves every inch of what it sets out to do – leave its audience full of good will, good food and just a touch of indigestion.

A wonderful way to spend a winter’s evening this festive season.

Harriet Bignell


Hot beef mince pies with suet pastry and marrowbone
Whole Cumberland sausage rings
Pumpkin, kale and goats cheese pie (Vegetarian)
Roasted potatoes with garlic and thyme (Vegetarian & Vegan and Gluten free)
Orange glazed carrots with chestnuts (Vegetarian & Vegan and Gluten free)
English mustard in pots (Vegetarian & Vegan)
Jugs of gravy
Mince pies (Vegetarian )
Plum and apple pudding with flaming brandy and custard (Vegetarian)
Cheese board with Christmas chutney, crackers and grapes (Vegetarian)

Performances: Monday 12th – Saturday 31st December 2016 at 7.30pm.
Matinee performances on Saturdays at 4.30pm
No shows on Sundays

Tickets: £49.50 (£39 concessions) including the meal

Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes approx.

For more information and tickets click here



Categories: 4/5 Stars, review

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