Crisis artist Lucy attended a read-through of our new Christmas show for grown-ups, The Last Noël. Here is what she thought:
The icy grip of winter may be almost upon us, but this year’s Christmas show is heating up to thaw our hearts & minds. Showing from 4 – 23 of December, Chris Bush’s latest creation is a seasonal delight that sparkles with mirth & good-tiding. A play that is riotous & rewarding, but also very real.
The Last Noël is comprised of three characters, Alice, Mike & Tess, and offers a cross-generational depiction of functional family life. It is set on Christmas Day or, for the characters concerned, the closest date to which they can all get together. As Tess relays, ‘when your mum’s a doctor, and your dad’s a paramedic, you learn to do Christmas a bit differently’. The characters tell stories – a family tradition – while they wait for Tess’ parents to arrive. These Yuletide tales vie for the position of favourite; punctuated with songs and interwoven with mastery.
It is laugh-out-loud funny. It is also memorable. I was lucky enough to be invited to a first and second readthrough and each time was struck by the energy of the actors and the faultlessness of the writing. Furthermore, I’ve been singing about sprouts for days; along with my own bastardised version of the absolutely sensational Twelve Days of Boozemas* (which I won’t ruin). Soaring harmonies, celestial vocals and a twist on many Christmas classics: quick, get your tickets, ’cause it’s set to be a treat.
Because there is more to The Last Noël than a song and a dance and a lot of good humour. It is very touching. It is also quite sad. I would even say that it’s a bit of a tearjerker. At least, many people found that their allergies were particularly triggered at the end of the second reading. Mine, despite (or perhaps even more so for) knowing what was coming, included. Would I be lying if I said we were all bawling? Perhaps it was the weather, maybe it was the rain, or possibly it was the raw power of theatre. The enhanced read-through was an intimate and intense affair. The songs rang out in their purity, and the emotive aspects were stark and striking against its un-choreographed production.
Despite there being no set, a sense of interaction between the actors and the audience certainly existed. The Last Noël is a show where we are invited (as a fourth wall and collectively a fourth member), silently, to a family Christmas. We are both part and partisan. In this, we experience not only their joy and excitement, but their heartbreaks and fears. Although many of us were welling up, it was interesting that the reasons for this varied. And perhaps a crying Christmas doesn’t sound a blast, but the clue is possibly in the title: The Last Noël. It is a play of lasts. And this has two meanings. Firstly, there is the notion that all (good) things must come to an end, raising themes of loss and bereavement. For me, this brought a tear as I considered those I’ve loved and lost. It was heartwrenching to view disruption (and sadness) within a family that worked so well, but I found myself also considering loss of home or stability. Christmas is a time for family and feasting and as ever, it makes a lack of those things all the worse for those not as fortunate as others. But secondly, there is the sense of lasting. The stories within The Last Noël are those which are told again and again. They create a sense of permanence and ultimately, although they change with time, the tales outlive the tellers. The mortal becomes immortalised. And in this, it is a play in which the theme of tradition — those new and old, particular and general — is examined in a progressive way.
In six words?
MUSICAL LUNAR CHRISTMAS. HEARTWARMING. BRING TISSUES.
* Probably not the real title
See the show 4 – 23 December. Click here.