Tag Archives: Tilly-Mae Millbrook

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

★★★★

Watermill Theatre

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 5th December 2020

★★★★

 

“a play that leaves its audience with such an infectious sense of joy”

 

A Christmas Carol – it’s a story many of us know so well. Based on Charles Dickens’ novel, the Watermill Theatre’s Christmas production is a charming and moving retelling of the famous tale. “A story is a candle in a dark place,” begins our narrator moments before the candle floats in front of us. We are assured that this tale will be a magical one. When Scrooge’s long dead business partner appears in his bedroom, weighed down by chains, he tells Scrooge that three ghosts will come to him, the ghost of Christmas past, present and Christmas yet to come. Across the course of the evening, Christmas Eve to be specific, the three ghosts visit the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge to show him what life lived in greed will bring him, and to remind him of how he became the man he is today . This is a story of the human capacity to change for the better and it is a heart-warming watch. Danielle Pearson’s adaptation, directed by Georgie Straight, pivots around this sense of a second chance. It is a touching and universal story, full of the harshness of life and the joy of it.

The show is a two-hander, and our two actors Pete Ashmore and Tilly-Mae Millbrook handle their many parts with ease. Ashmore’s Scrooge undergoes an incredibly moving transformation, from the gruff, merciless man we first meet to the joyfully energetic and generous figure the play ends with. Millbrook as the Narrator is warm and playful, bringing the audience into her tale. Between them they also play everyone else, made unrecognisable by a change of accent and a floral scarf. Designed by Emily Barratt, each costume detail denoting a different character is vivid and sufficient.

The set, which features dark bricks and hanging washing, is designed by Isobel Nicholson. A piano is disguised as Bob Cratchitt’s desk branded with Scrooge and Marley’s sign. Several of the ghosts are created through set – a lantern reimagined and a cloaked shape falling from the ceiling. Creating such a multi-role show with only two actors could have proved a real challenge, but the show has been conceived in such a way – through script, costume and design, that we never want for more actors than we have onstage. Clever sound design by Tom Marshall creates the sense of bustling streets and heightens each ghost’s arrival. Harry Armytage’s lighting design is equally clever: two windows at the back of the stage are lit and filled with silouhettes from the cobwebs of Camden to groups of party guests gathered together.

The show is punctuated with beautiful harmonised renditions of classic Christmas songs which the actors sing and accompany themselves, on violin, clarinet and piano. Both are accomplished players and Ashmore’s violin playing is particularly impressive and evocative.

Every element of this show is lovely, well made, detailed, delivered by a faultless cast and creative team. The Watermill Theatre handles the Covid-19 restrictions fantastically and patiently, and it is a pleasure to be back in a theatre again, especially to see a play that leaves its audience with such an infectious sense of joy and the possibility of human nature.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


A Christmas Carol

Watermill Theatre until 3rd January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | May 2019
Assassins | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Wicker Husband | ★★★★★ | March 2020
Lone Flyer | ★★★★ | October 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Midnight – 5 Stars

Midnight

Midnight

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 11th September 2018

★★★★★

“a highly impactful, beautifully-crafted musical”

 

It is the last moments of 1937 in Soviet Azerbaijan and the clocks have stopped. The neighbour has just been taken away but Man (Colin Burnicle) works for the Party and has just received protection. Him and Woman (Norma Butikofer) are ready to open their black market champagne when they hear a knock on the door. Someone has a quota to fill. And he isn’t from the NKVD.

Based on the play ‘Citizens of Hell’ by one of Azerbaijan’s leading literary voices, Elchin, Timothy Knapman (book and lyrics) and Laurence Mark Wythe (music and lyrics) have created a highly impactful, beautifully-crafted musical. What are people prepared to do to survive, it asks, and how many lies are people prepared to tell those closest to them? As the couple are forced to face what they have each done, a harsh light is shone on this culture of fear and the limits that it pushes people to.

The fantastic actor-musician ensemble, dusted in white, edge the space, a perpetual haunting presence as they revolve between victims of the purges, colleagues and friends. Leon Scott’s visitor is enthralling onstage. He has an infectious presence and an irresistible charm, that feels wonderfully dichotomous against the chaos and confusion he leaves in his wake. Burnicle and Butikofer as the couple cracking beneath the pressure of their revelations, deliver nuanced and convincing performances, as the characters are pushed to their extremes.

Elliot Squire’s set raises their apartment just slightly, a traditional setting complete with a lounge area and dining table. The edges of this space are illuminated, a contemporary finish that creates a thin boundary between the ever-present ensemble and the central set. Stalin’s image hangs large and high above the stage.

It’s an unusual topic for a musical but one that translates surprisingly well. The score meanders between eerie musical moments lead by the ensemble, playful musical comedy segments, and more moving ballads from the couple. There is a lovely simplicity within the score that feels necessary to both the intimacy of the narrative and the size of the space. It is also delivered by a highly competent group of vocalists and musicians.

Moving us with ease between thriller, comedy and drama, this is a complex, well-crafted new musical, delivered by excellent performances, under the strong direction of Kate Golledge.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 


Midnight

Union Theatre until 29th September

 

 

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