Writer: Kevin Fearon
Additional Material/Director: Cal McCrystal
Reviewer: John Roberts
If we are to be truly honest, then the Christmas shows over the past few years at The Royal Court have been a little hit and miss – the productions have tried to rely on the same formula of past successes and left little to the imagination, thankfully this year’s festive offering brings freshness in abundance – under Cal McCrystal’s comedic eye, The Scouse Nativity not only has heart but plenty of laughs too.
Angela Gabriel (Lindzi Germain) is on a mission from God, she needs to get Mary (Hayley Hampson) and Joseph (Michael Fletcher) together in order to gain her “bigger wings”, once that’s complete she needs to tell Mary that she’s to expect God’s child and call him Jesus… sounds simple, right? Well if you throw in three dim-witted shepherds Terry (Andrew Schofield), Jerry (Stephen Fletcher) and Lil (Keddy Sutton) and a meddling Machiavellian menace in the shape of Paul Duckworth’s Herod and you have the recipe for tear-inducing hilarity and some sharp satire.
McCrystal is one of the country’s leading directors of comedy and his experience brings a tightness to the Court’s stage that we haven’t seen in a while, the cast are of course, given freedom to play and have fun, but clearly under a tight and watchful eye and it’s all the better for it, especially when played on the clever pop-up book style set. Mark Walter’s design allows for many local reference gags and puns to take place but also provides a strong playing space for the actors to tell the story.
As Mary and Joseph, Hampson and Fletcher are once again reunited and give us their strongest performances to date – both showcasing stunning vocals and energetic portrayals of history’s young lovers. Germain brings the house down as the larger than life Angel with a mission and Paul Duckworth as Herod packs more into one look and two fingers than many actors do in a whole production and his range of impressions spot-on. Andrew Schofield, Stephen Fletcher and Keddy Sutton as the karaoke-loving shepherding trio, bring anarchy and madness to the forefront – in fact, their take on contemporary dance has to be one of the funniest moments seen on stage this year.
The second half of The Scouse Nativity provides an unusual but very funny twist in which Schofield pulls off an impersonation that is far too canny for its own good. (we won’t spoil the fun). Packed with plenty of disco anthems and Christmas songs, excellent performances,pitch-perfectt comedy and tightly executed script, it’s hard to find fault with this year’s production – however, one feels the second half lacks the same punch that the first half gives us and as a result seems a little weaker in comparison – oh and we mustn’t forget the lack of a Lambanana appearance too. That said this is the best Royal Court show in years and certainly gets our approval this.
Runs until 13 January 2018 | Image: AB Photography