Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Gingerbread Mix Up (Lyric until 7 Jan) loud & musical, full of bangs, screams & audience participation

When you open up a Christmas show to audience participation and pantomime responses then you have to be ready for anything. And the cast of The Gingerbread Mix Up in the Lyric Theatre coped well this afternoon with the occasional underage and perhaps over-caffeinated heckle from the stalls as they romped through the high energy, festive three-hander.

Martin Murphy’s show is loosely based on the story of Hansel and Gretel, with the woodcutter chopping out a number of characters (including himself) and removing a lot of the original scenes!

Primrose is a sneery, stroppy, selfish monster of a twelve year old who (without intervention) might grow up and find a job as a wicked witch. Her parents – particularly her Mother – conspire to abandon her in the middle of a forest. The wicked witch’s grammar-obsession cat Pardon lures her back to a cottage constructed from gingerbread and confectionery where the not-totally wicked witch dreams of cooking up something special for dinner.

Rosie Barry stomps around the stage as Primrose in her tunic wowing the kids in the audience with her cheeky retorts and lippy language. Despite being twice the age of her character, she has the headphones-on-engrossed-in-a-3DS-screen look down to a tee and even throws in a Pokemon reference.

Christina Nelson is the comedy queen rocking her Dame Edna glasses and outfit as Primrose’s Mum before transforming into the witch. Her feet bounce over the stage as her whole body expresses the emotion of any particular line. With an outrageously detailed costume and props that fly in and out, she’s the driving force of the performance.

Kyron Bourke plays the father and the witch’s cat Pardon. He stole the show in the Lyric’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf last year with his revolutionary piano playing and magical rendition of December Moon. While The Gingerbread Mix Up is punctuated with songs composed by Ursula Burns, none particularly showed off his husky vocal talent. (At times this afternoon, the backing track overpowered the micced up performers in the sound mix.) It’s a shame that the gingerbread cottage didn’t have a piano in a corner that would have allowed the cat to croon a soulful song or two.

The set is craftily shared with the Lyric’s adult-oriented Christmas production, The Nativity … What the Donkey Saw, and gradually reveals itself to the audience, starting with some incredibly precise lighting in the opening minute. Effort has been put into adding puppet characters that dance along in the background of some songs and a comedy bunny motorcycle courier who delivers telegrams to prod the action forward. The matching fabric across furniture, fittings, costumes and accessories in the opening scene is typical of the detailed design behind the show.

There’s an odd lack of symmetry – perhaps a final scene cut? – that means Primrose’s parents and Kyron Bourke’s ‘Dad wig’ don’t reappear in the second half. It felt like a lost opportunity to link Pardon with the animatronic cat that sat in the first scene’s set so cutely scratching its nose.

But the kids in the audience won’t notice any of that and will be gleefully shouting at the stage even when it’s not clear quite what the appropriate encouragement should be.

Suitable for children of play school age and over, The Gingerbread Mix Up is loud and musical, full of bangs, screams and enthusiastic audience participation. It’s playing in the Lyric Theatre until 7 January.

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