The Paradiso Spiegeltent – Christmas at Leicester Sq
Reviewed – 10th December 2017
“this is one show to warm your heart and also leave you in absolute stitches
Whether you are among the excited crowds at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland or enjoying a glass of mulled wine whist appreciating Covent Garden’s impressive Christmas Tree, the festive season in London promises a never ending supply of fun activities leading up to the big day – and this is no exception when it comes to the theatre.
In the heart of Leicester Square, The Fitzrovia Radio Hour entertained us with a classic Dickens tale. Self acclaimed enjoyers of ‘wearing pencil moustaches and dinner jackets’ the group specialise in writing and performing material in a rather twee 1940s way.
On one hand, being tucked away in a cosy, dimly lit tent was quite appropriate given the somewhat spookiness of the narrative, but when you can faintly (or not in the case of the busker singing Britpop classics not far away) hear the hustle and bustle of city life outside, it can be a tad distracting. Hats off to the cast though who, despite the background noise, put on a fabulous performance.
The show is acted out as a live broadcast radio show in the style of days gone by. This is juxtaposed with the relationship between the characters when they are ‘off air’. Hellbent on playing the character of Scrooge, Ernest Andrews (played by Samuel Collings) may or may not have had something to do with an injury that took out the previous leading man (Michael Lumsden). Vanity Fair (Alix Dunmore) and Beau Belles (William Findley) get a little too cosy when acting out their roles – if only the radio audience could see what they were up to!
Poor Gretchen Haggard (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) is easily distracted, pining for her original Scrooge. In order to make their story more realistic to the listeners, the sound effects are of huge importance and visually it is so entertaining watching them juggle reading their lines into the microphone with clambering around trying to find the correct prop. We’re talking everything from balloons to a skull and lets not forget the signboards signalling that the audience should a) applaud and b) make seagull noises.
Distractions aside, this is one show to warm your heart and also leave you in absolute stitches.
Reviewed by Stephanie Legg
Photography Geraint Lewis
A Christmas Carol
is at The Paradiso Spiegeltent, Christmas at Leicester Square until 30th December 2017
The cinematic path to Skull Island and the fabled beast King Kong is a well trodden one since the first film in 1933 up to the recently released Kong: Skull Island starring, amongst others, Tom Hiddleston.
Less trodden is the theatre path but that has changed with the opening of Daniel Clarkson’s engaging comedic re-imagination of the Kong story at the atmospheric Vaults underneath Waterloo Station.
Clarkson, a self–confessed cinephile, has previous success from his critically acclaimed ‘Potted’ stage shows that included the Olivier nominated Potted Potter. Being a huge fan of the 1933 classic King Kong he wanted to create a spoof comedy version for the stage and his work is now available for all to see.
Keeping close to the original film storyline, filmmaker Carl Denham charters a New York ship for a project but is unable to secure an actress for the female role. After a search he finds penniless Ann and convinces her to join the crew for an adventure of a lifetime. They head for Skull Island.
There follows a series of adventures that culminate in the capture of Kong, who is brought back to New York to be paraded as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Eventually escaping and climbing the Empire State Building, Kong is shot and falls to his death. Denham says the classic line ‘it wasn’t the airplanes, it was Beauty that killed the Beast’.
Set designer Simon Scullion makes the most of the arched space and has created an adaptable four tier pyramid set that creates a sense of the ship, Skull Island and the Empire State Building. The sound is loud and clear bringing in particular a hidden beast to life. Lighting is basic but effective.
The five competent actors play various roles and each commands the set throughout the 80 minute show. Various props are brought onto the set and there is a hilarious use of puppetry in the ‘sacrifice’ scene.
Rob Crouch as Denham (looking every part the film director in his linen suit) has a strong voice that leads us through the storyline. Ben Chamberlain plays the wimpy sailor scared of almost everything but provides the love interest with Ann (Alix Dunmore). Sam Donnelly is the archetypal seafaring Skipper and Brendan Murphy is a hilarious Token Guy. The cast obviously enjoyed bringing this comic romp to the stage.
Fans of King Kong will undoubtedly want to witness this show though it does has a much wider appeal and there was a good cross section of ages in the audience. Whether those younger members quite understood some of the humour is questionable but they would have enjoyed the visual delights on offer.
The show was laugh out loud in places and mildly funny in others. The humour seemed to represent a mixture between pantomime, an end of the pier show, Monty Python and a little bit of Marx Brothers. There was a feeling though that the whole wasn’t greater than the sum of its parts.
In conclusion this was a well acted and presented show that made for a fun night out and a tonic for those wanting a bit of silliness to brighten their week. It is indeed a bananas production and worth a visit.