ChildrensComedyDramaFestive 16/17IrelandReview

The Gingerbread Mix-Up – Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Writer: Martin Murphy
Director: Richard Croxford
Reviewer: Colm G Doran

This festive season The Lyric Theatre is brimming with Christmas celebration, especially in their Danske Bank stage which is currently home to The Gingerbread Mix-Up. Written by Martin Murphy and directed by Richard Croxford; this is a show that embodies fairy-tales, Halloween and Christmas pantomime all rolled into one.

It is a captivating story about Primrose, a selfish little girl who is left in the woods by her parents. Armed with just her Nintendo, she embarks on an adventure that entails a witch, a talking cat, a big bad wolf and just for fun – a motorbike riding bunny who delivers telegrams at just the right moments.

This huge production is carried by a cast of just three; Christina Nelson and Kyron Bourke who each play the dual role of parents along with Brenda the Witch and Pardon the cat respectively – and Rosie Barry who takes the lead as the selfish and impatient Primrose. These three are magnetic onstage. As the parents Bourke plays a hapless, kindly father while Nelson is the miserly and cruel mother, whose idea it is to abandon Primrose in a forest. Barry’s Primrose enters the stage like a caffeine fuelled whirlwind, making demands of her appeasing father from the get-go. There are a few knowing laughs from the parents in the audience who undoubtedly know the feeling of having their children make similar demands (especially at this time of year). Barry manages to embody the petulance of Primrose perfectly without ever being unlikeable or tiresome. Whether she’s singing, dancing or screaming for sweets, her incredible energy never wavers. Similarly as Brenda The Witch, Nelson is deliciously malevolent and incompetent in equal measure. Her magic usually doesn’t work and she can’t even cackle (it hurts her throat) but she embodies the larger than life character in every word and movement, stirring up the youngsters in the audience to aid her in her various spells. While Bourke extends the pathetic father role into the pathetic assistant of the witch seamlessly, his movements are even more nervy and uncertain in feline form. Very early on in the performance it is clear that the audience of the Danske Bank stage are safely in the hands of three professionals.

A key factor in the success of any children’s show is undoubtedly its design. And here the evidently masterful creative team have truly outdone themselves; a stuffy conservative home, a stunningly realised forest and a built-to-scale house made of various items of confectionary are just some of the imaginative creations included in this show. However the most stunning piece of design on the stage has to be the witch’s costume; so intricately fashioned with layers upon layers of different fabrics and bright clashing colours and designs (made perhaps of the clothes of previous children she has caught – who knows!) that it is the perfect outfit to hold the attention of an awe-struck bunch of kids. The special effects are equally enchanting with various props floating down from the ceiling and spells being cast with a burst of music and a flash of light.

The show in its entirety is simply magical, it is packed full of imagination and creativity while also instilling some important life lessons (like the importance of manners and sharing) into the young audience that are engaged in every enchanting moment. It is a must see this Christmas for the young and young at heart alike.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: Contributed

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