Writer: Kevin Fearon
Director: Stephen Fletcher
Christmas at The Royal Court is always a little anarchic, it always offers an adult escape from the more traditional festive treats that fill up the venues around the city. Despite not being able to present their usual fayre last year, The Royal Court is finally able to present the next production in their formulaic line of ‘Scouse’ shows.
I say formulaic, as pretty much all the ingredients stay the same, regular faces in the cast, on-stage band – with live vocals and support from Emma Grace Arrends, a fairy-tale given a localised twist, adult jokes, stunning set, but this year, things don’t seem to connect in the same way as past years. It feels like something is missing, almost like the sherry has been left out of the trifle.
Olivia Du Monceau’s visually striking, rotating set is the perfect playground for the cast’s revels – from the in-your-face decoration of the fancy dress shop to the dark and damp dungeon of Maleffluent’s lair.
The cast are uniformly excellent, they are engaging, energetic, and when left to ad-lib their way through parts, damn-right hilarious. Andrew Scofield’s Crow being a particular highlight in this year’s company not only bringing joy in the wickedness but showcasing his musical talents on the saxophone and ukulele too. Jamie Clarke is a delightful leading lady and balances Ora’s naivety and modern-day independence perfectly. Keddy Sutton shines as Daffodil alongside her fellow fairy sisters Snowdrop (Hayley Sheen) and Iris (Emma Bispham.) Liam Tobin joins the Christmas cast as The King (looking far too much like the Tiger King… but alas not even one reference – a missed opportunity surely?). Lindzi Germain (Maleffluent) is as bold and as outrageous as ever, not needing an excuse to shout and hurl abuse at the audience. Michael Fletcher is as always on fine vocal form, his numbers packing a punch – his comic duet with Schofield in act two is a real Morcombe and Wise-esque treat.
The issue is when the cast are left to deal with Kevin Fearon’s rather pedestrianised script – the storyline is simple enough Ora, is sent to the Land of Ferries (Yes you read that right) to protect her from the evil Maleffluent’s curse that would see her take reign over Poundland, the rest is pretty much as you would expect – a battle between good and evil and a heavy dose of madcap madness thrown in for good measure. But the usual political edge that has been firmly interwoven in past productions seem to be missing apart from one small scene in act 2 and a rather shoe-horned song sheet which adds a superfluous 20minutes onto the running time – no matter how good it is to have the Royal Court Audience upon their feet, belting out a karaoke classic – and believe me it is good fun. But the show naturally ends way before this.
Despite not being as politically involved as Scouse Snow White or as organically funny as The Scouse Nativity (Could it be time for a new style Christmas show at The Royal Court?) this year’s production is still a highly engaging and enjoyable night of escapism, and, in the end, that’s what it’s all about!
Runs until 15 Jan 2022