A Christmas Carol
Reviewed – 28th November 2018
“a rich mixture of captivating drama, music, dance and laughter”
Stepping into the Chickenshed Theatre foyer, one is greeted by animated warmth, a feeling which is projected on stage and also explains the deserved success of this first inclusive theatre company. The remarkable logistical feat of putting on ‘A Christmas Carol’ with four casts of 200 goes almost unnoticed as the place buzzes with impressively organised activity and we are swept along by the energy and enthusiasm.
Set in the 1930s, Dickens’ Victorian social issues are updated by a meagre benefits system, severe unemployment and women’s equality, as a background to the timeless story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and how he found himself capable of changing for the better. Writer and director, Lou Stein, brings together younger and older, veterans and newcomers, and produces a rich mixture of captivating drama, music, dance and laughter, tailor-made for the hundreds of Chickenshed members. The catchy collection of musical numbers by Dave Carey has rousing choruses and distinctive solos, giving opportunities for everyone to participate. A stylish, art deco set, designed by William Fricker, frames the show and his detailed costumes colour the characters. Beautifully imaginative lighting (Andrew Caddies) adds atmospheric touches, transporting us to the various times and places.
As well as working with remarkable coordination, the whole cast exudes immense discipline and composure; there is some fine singing and exciting choreography. The main roles are well defined and confidently portrayed, from Finn Walters’ stoic Bob Cratchit to the cool ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ played by Michael Bossisse. But a big round of applause goes to Ashley Driver for a wonderful interpretation of Scrooge and his journey from misery to happiness.
Performing with such a supportive infrastructure opens a door to these children and young people. It allows them to gain confidence and discover new facets in themselves. Quite apart from being a wonderful and clever piece of entertainment, Chickenshed’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ has its own special quality which comes from a deep sense of being part of a community. It is worth the trip to the end of the Piccadilly line to experience one’s own irresistible Scrooge-like change of mood.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Ava de Souza
A Christmas Carol
Chickenshed Theatre until 5th January
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Jekyll & Hyde
Reviewed – 27th September 2018
“a clever interpretation of a classic story with some impressive performances from a talented diverse cast.”
The Robert Louis Stevenson story of the nature of humanity and potential for us all to choose to do both good and evil is vividly explored in a new musical opera version of “Jekyll and Hyde” by a dynamic young cast in the Studio performance space at Chickenshed Theatre. The audience enter the Studio along a Victorian street and sit on four banks of rather uncomfortable bench seats facing each other across the cobbles. Flickering street lamps and Victorian smog set the scene. A bridge and sewer below face down to Jekyll’s house and the evocative set designed by Constance Villemot is well used throughout.
The writing team (music by Dave Carey and Hannah Bohlin with lyrics by Paul Morrall) chose to use modern music and words to update the story for today. With director Jonny Morton, they also made the decision to reorder and perform the story chronologically to make it more accessible to a modern audience.
The opera requires careful concentration as it moves quickly through events with two halves of around thirty five minutes each. The music has been prerecorded but all the singing is live. There are twenty-one songs in a variety of styles and enough repetition to make the audience feel familiar with the music during the show.
Chickenshed has an inclusive ethos and the cast reflected this. The dual role of Jekyll/Hyde was performed by Nathaniel Leigertwood. He contrasted the two roles most effectively and the physicality of his transformations and violence as Hyde clearly scared two audience members opposite me. Nathaniel has long dark curly hair which he released from a ponytail as Hyde and used to disguise his face most successfully. His friend and lawyer Utterson was played by Demar Lambert and Dr Lanyon was sung confidently by Finn Kebbe. Sir Danvers Carew was performed by Ecevit Kulucan and Poole by Will Laurence. Vocal performances were generally strong although there were moments when the score was too demanding for individuals.
The chorus were both dancers and singers and their performance was pivotal to the success of the production, with dynamic choreography by Michael Bossisse. The lighting by Andrew Caddies really enhanced the opera throughout. There is a clever piece of stagecraft at the end of the opera which surprises the audience and allows them further insight into the dilemma that Jekyll has faced, forming a neat conclusion to the opera. This is a clever interpretation of a classic story with some impressive performances from a talented diverse cast.
Reviewed by Max Bender
Photography by Natalie Greco
Jekyll & Hyde
Chickenshed Theatre until 20th October
Previously reviewed at Chickenshed: