The Season – Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Book and Lyrics: Kit Buchan

Music: Jim Barne

Director: Tim Jackson

Reviewer: James Garrington

It may still be November but already the Christmas-themed productions are starting to appear. This one is from the pens of Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, winners of the 2018 Stiles & Drewe Mentorship Award – and it’s a delight.

The Season is a new musical, arriving in Northampton hot on the heels of its premiere in Ipswich. It’s Christmas Eve, and Dougal (Alex Cardall) has arrived in New York for his father’s wedding – the father he has never met, as he walked out before Dougal was born. At the airport, he is met, not by his father but by Robin (Tori Allen-Martin). Robin’s sister is the bride, 30 years younger than her husband-to-be – and while Dougal is excited by the wedding Robin is dreading it.

On a deeper level, it’s a story of relationships. How are we affected by our relationship with our parents, an absent father, a mother or other older relative we grew up with? That’s just something to add a bit of meat and depth to the story though – primarily it’s a story of a boy and a girl, an ill-matched pair thrown together at Christmas. Will they get together before his plane leaves the following day?

It’s a two-hander, and both of the characters are entirely believably portrayed – both in the characterisation and in the performance. Alex Cardall exudes an irresistibly bubbling boyish charm as Dougal. He’s a man who loves everything about Christmas – and particularly Christmas in New York, a city he’s never visited before but claims to know it well, based purely on the number of times he’s seen Home Alone and other movies. He’s excited by everything and everywhere – the buildings, the subway, finding himself in the street where the opening scene of a movie was filmed. Tori Allen-Martin’s Robin is in many ways the opposite. She hates everything to do with Christmas, preferring to spend it in Chinatown where there are no decorations, no Christmas music and no Christmas dinner. It’s a wonderfully well-judged portrayal of a cynical New Yorker, someone who sees everything that’s bad about the city and the reality of living there if you have limited funds.

While in many ways this could be seen as a bare-bones production it doesn’t feel it. The single set by Amy Jane Cook is cleverly conceived and more than enough to give us an airport, a subway car, Chinatown and a couple of hotel bedrooms – with some surprises along the way. The band of three musicians never feels thin, and the vocals are delivered beautifully.

Then there’s the writing. Jim Barne and Kit Buchan may be unknown names at the moment but it would be surprising if that was the case for much longer. They are winners of the Stiles & Drewe Mentorship Award and the influence of the more experienced songsmiths is evident. The script is full of wit and charm, just avoiding overstepping the line to schmaltzy. There’s a lot of very funny dialogue and cleverly written lyrics which help to counterpoint the poignant moments when they occur. Keep your eyes open for more from this pair.

Everything comes together beautifully to create a pre-Christmas treat of a production. It’s cheesy at times, it’s light and fluffy at times, and the plot has a couple of glaring – and in one case, badly judged – anomalies but it really doesn’t matter. It’s nearly Christmas, and it’s a production that offers a piece of delightful festive fun.

Runs until 30 November 2019                                                     Image: Pamela Raith

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Delightful Festive Fun

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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