Friday, November 24, 2017

What The Reindeer Saw: festive frivolity in the Lyric Theatre until 6 January

Santa 45 (played by Alan McKee) is being inaugurated into the role, taking over the role of chief gift giver from his father. “Let’s make the North Pole great again” he intones in his speech to the assembled elves that heralds a time of unpopular change. His personal assistant Cornelia (Rosie McClelland) tries to prep him for the tasks ahead, but Santa seems more interested in playing darts in the reindeer shed than taking advice from the learned elves around him. What The Reindeer Saw starts out so well, but the fun with Trump abruptly stops and is never quite properly revived.

The long first half drags as Mr Claus comes to face to face with a workers’ revolt and a North Pole trade union official, a republican of the local variety. Add to this his performance issues with the elfegant Mrs Claus (Conor Grimes), the Secret Service elves (played by scene-stealers Jo Donnelly and Gerard McCabe) and four singing reindeer. After the interval, the threads of the story are efficiently tied up and director Tony Devlin steers the cast towards a big heart-warming finale with a suitably snowy resolution.

The normal rules of theatre seem to be torn up every December late November as entertainment and mirth are put way above other theatrical crafts. It sometimes feels like ambitions are lowered, voices are raised, and gags are handed out like sweets from a tub of Haribo to audiences that are assumed to have drowned their discernment in the bar.

Last year’s Grimes and McKee-authored The Nativity … What the Donkey Saw was Troubles-free and a much classier, sweeter tale. For 2017 the comedy double act have revived What The Reindeer Saw as a more shouty and crude production, with the music and singing blasting out at the audience at an uncomfortable volume.

The lyrics to the songs, set to carol tunes, are clever. Elf puns litter the script, and the final payoff with its language-based joke is well (should that be wellf?) worth the wait.

Rosie Moore’s costumes – including a very alternative Claus outfit – are fun and colourful. For once, Ciaran Bagnall’s set is unusually bland, and I fear that the revolving stage may be the death (or at least the cause of bank strain) of the pointy-eared stage hands who have to manually rotate the central section.

The live music from Sir Elfton John (Rod McVey sitting to one side of the stage) adds to the sense of occasion, and the rich vocals in Mr & Mrs Claus’s duet (to the tune of Once in Royal David’s City) create one of the standout moments of show.

The reindeer lock horns at least once too often, the flight simulator scene picks up speed very slowly, and it’s unfortunate that more is not made of the great tomfoolery between Donnelly and McCabe (complete with strong Country Antrim accents and a quare lot o Ulster Scots). The talented pair end up spread too thin across their roles as security agents, builders, mechanics, and furry animals.

If you’re looking for an evening of light-hearted banter at which to let your hair down with colleagues or friends, set your GPS for the Lyric and pull the hand brake on tight as you park your sleigh on Ridgeway Street. What The Reindeer Saw continues at the Lyric Theatre most evenings (except Monday) at 7.45pm until 6 January.


Janet from Bangor said...

I was at the show on Friday with 3 friends, and unfortunately none of us enjoyed. Weak script, too much shouting from main elf, and some of the banter uncomfortable (why did Santa drop his trousers????) Last year's show was brilliant, really disappointed. Janet from Bangor

jdm62 said...

We were at the show last night and felt that it was pretty abysmal, what happened to quality control at the Lyric? The jokes were substandard Carry On film material and the crude attempts at innuendo fell flat. I mean when he said "Are you going to iron my Dicky" with reference to his dicky bow was something you'd hear in a primary school. Not impressed and as someone who has always had great experiences at the Lyric I feel very disappointed.

DM Hillsborough

Unknown said...

I have been to these Lyric Christmas shows many times. This was very disappointing. The actors worked flat out but the material was poor. It was crude, weak humoured and just hard work. Couldn’t recommend it.

WGM53 said...

Oh deer me. What a disappointment and waste of time and money. Last year's Christmas effort at the Lyric was just OK but this was terrible. A poor script with few laughs and most of them centred on swearing. Difficult to hear dialogue as actors frequently spoke (or shouted) together. Parodies of carols were unintelligible and the situation was made worse by music being far too loud and drowning out speech. I am all for supporting local actors and the Lyric theatre but please spare theatregoers from this dross. At very best, 2 out of 10. Patrons deserve their money back.