Writer: Lewis Ironside
Director Katy Baker
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Marley was dead drunk, to begin with. And then he drank some more.
Magnificent Bastard Productions’ brand of alcohol-infused semi-improvised comedies extends into the Christmas market with their take on Dickens’s eternal classic, A Christmas Carol. As with all other Shit-faced Showtime installments, one member of the small cast has been drinking before the show, and is, therefore, a little more undisciplined than the rest of the cast. But every time they go off script, or rejig the story in any way, the rest of the cast have to commit to their improvisations.
The result is a production which can vary wildly from show to show, not least because the cast (and, more importantly, the inebriated actor) are changed with each performance. On press night, it was the turn of cast member Daniel Quirke to take on roles including Marley’s Ghost, Mrs Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present while three sheets to the wind.
One of the miracles of Magnificent Bastard’s productions is that they manage to find performers who genuinely become funny when drunk. For most of us, the combination of Christmas and too much alcohol can produce so many tears and recriminations that families reporting to watching the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders for a spot of light relief.
Here, though, Quirke is on delightful form, introducing his own brand of anarchy into Dickens’s original tale. From establishing the licking of someone’s nose as a habitual Victorian mode of greeting, to unilaterally deciding that Scrooge, far from being visited by three spirits over the course of a single evening, had been in a coma for forty years, the show gives amusing twists on the classic story in a production which otherwise hews closely to the original.
Within the show’s tight hour there are plenty of opportunities for the rest of the cast to shine. Issy Wroe Wright stands out among the song and dance numbers, when not being distracted by Quirke’s oddities, as the cast take Christmas songs from traditional carols to Wham!, Slade and Wizzard and adapt them to the story’s need.
The result is one of the more entertaining takes on Dickens’s tale that is available over the Christmas period. It may not have the deep, piercing, moral questioning that the original author intended, but like its key actor, it is full of Christmas spirit.
Continues until 5 January 2020. | Image: Rah Petherbrdige