This Yuletide, Edinburgh’s Lyceum is serving up a family show to relish from Scotland’s celebrated theatre company for children and young people, Catherine Wheels.
In the opening scene, the magical façade that theatre creates is stripped bare to show an empty stage with the odd awkward prop lying around where manager Lesley (Elicia Daly) is trying to create some kind of order before going home this Christmas Eve. Invitations from friends Christine (Janie Thomson) and Dave (Hamish Wylie) to join them for Christmas dinner are resolutely declined by the cynical ‘fine on my own’ Lesley.
As the clock strikes midnight, a band of four higgledy piggeldy theatre spirits are unleashed and start appearing from nooks and crannies in the auditorium. Unable to believe their luck of being in a theatre at Christmas time, they are stunned that nothing is happening so, they go in search of a story.
What unfolds is a show that is, almost in equal measure, alternative and at the same time traditional. In an immensely clever feat of interweaving of stories within stories from the pen of Rob Alan Evans, we find these four ghosts subverting Lesley’s desired order.
Lyceum stalwart Richard Conlon as the old thespian Fruity, dressed in hairnet and quilted dressing gown, is fabulously delirious at the thought of performing again, while Ronan McMahon plays Billy with the air of a modern day Rodney Trotter and cross dresses for the story that Lesley finds in her heart to tell, when the insightful spotlight that’s part of Colin Grenfell’s lighting design, targets her.
Sita Pieraccini, dressed in the wrinkly tights and soft lace up boots from a side show from a bygone era, capitalises on her speech free brand of physical theatre in her role as the chirping Bird Girl and Florence Odumosu as the exuberant Madame Lady fully deserves her personal accolade of “5 stars!!”
When they plump to perform a show called Christmas Dinner, the stage turns from a behind the scenes/front of curtain affair to an outrageously comic scene where they are magnificently dressed as parts of said dinner thanks to design from Karen Tennant whose sets have been impressively built in The Lyceum’s own workshops.
With music from composer Danny Krass, and under the astute direction of Catherine Wheels’ Artistic Director Gill Robertson, this cornucopia of referenced fairy tale and Christmas favourites swirl like a snowstorm on a wild December night, dripping tropes on the eager assembly of starved theatre goers but which likely flew above the heads of younger audience members.
That said, it is a family show and families have a range of ages many of whom would spot Pirandello, Wilde and Dickens and see whispers of the Wizard of Oz, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and more obvious nods to Rapunzel, The Snow Queen and Hansel and Gretel.
Lesley may not run out in to the streets like Scrooge dispensing goodwill to all, but her previously frozen heart is melted and quietly restored to its rightful warm role in this enchanting of piece of entertainment that is a welcome addition to Yuletide fare.
Running time 75 mins
Until 2nd January 2022