Touring / Christmas Carol reviews are in!

Christmas Carol reviews are in!

…and they are rocking!

★★★★ The Times

“Emotionally true to the spirit of the redemptive tale, yet its zany approach is original and refreshingly free from sugary sentiment.

“Feel you’ve digested this story over so many Christmases past that it has become as unappetising as Brussels sprouts? Then prepare for a treat. This inventively unhinged take on the seasonal favourite may set Dickens spinning in his grave, but for the rest of us it’s a bonkers delight. Created by the clowning experts Spymonkey, it remains emotionally true to the spirit of the redemptive tale, yet its zany approach is so original and refreshingly free from sugary sentiment that it makes an invigorating tonic for festive fatigue.

“Ed Gaughan’s swaggering production is, beneath the lunacy, impeccably skilled, with an adroit four-strong cast and a drum-tight band. Just when you’re almost crying with laughter, it sneaks in a moment so lovely or melancholy that suddenly you’re tearing up all over again.

“The author is portrayed by Aitor Basauri, in the actor’s native Spanish accent and sporting a two-pronged hairdo that makes him look like a deranged teddy bear. He delivers front-of-cloth patter, on Alice Power’s Victorian toy theatre set, with the flamboyant air of a stage hypnotist — a nod to Dickens’s famously mesmerising public readings. What ensues is certainly wacky enough to be some sort of hallucination as Toby Park’s lanky Scrooge struggles to keep control of the narrative and his fellow performers.

“Not every joke lands, but mostly the anarchy is inspired. There’s a ghost who hankers for horror-film glory (puckish Petra Massey); a mutinous, mansized inflatable turkey; and a romantic ice-skating scene between young Ebenezer and his political firebrand sweetheart (Sophie Russell) that turns into a Torvill and Dean send-up featuring a Henry vacuum cleaner.

“When Scrooge loses his love, a choir of local volunteers join in for a piercing rendition of Radiohead’s sublime dirge No Surprises while he collapses beneath gently falling snow. It’s an abrupt change of tone that works like a dream, just as it does when the Ghost of Christmas Present, an ebullient phantom swooping about on a hoverboard, pauses to deliver an impassioned homily on the importance, in today’s bitterly divided world, of kindness. That feels properly Christmassy. And this is a very clever, brilliantly silly show.”


★★★★ The Guardian

Spymonkey riff with pop culture – from funk-anthem carols to Torvill and Dean – in a bizarre take on the Dickens classic

“At this time of year, Scrooge is as reliable as mince pies and mistletoe – 175 years since Dickens published his ghost story, A Christmas Carol remains as ubiquitous as ever over the festive season, with new productions appearing in their droves. But you’re unlikely to see another version quite like Spymonkey’s.

“Riffing on Dickens’ classic, the company can rely on their audience’s knowledge. We know this story. We’re anticipating each “bah, humbug!” and yuletide ghoul. And so Spymonkey can have some fun, gleefully inserting anachronisms – carollers singing Oops Upside Your Head; the Ghost of Christmas Future listening to a self-help podcast – and putting their own zany, dizzying spin on Scrooge’s journey to enlightenment.

“It’s silly. Very silly. Dickens keeps reading from the wrong book. The Ghost of Christmas Past wants to be in a horror movie. Mr Fezziwig is played as a Cuban drug lord. Some skits point up moments of the ridiculous in Dickens’ narrative, while others – like a wonderfully bizarre sequence involving Torvill and Dean’s Bolero routine and a Henry vacuum cleaner (yes, really) – come straight from the wacky imaginations of the company.

“The real butt of the joke is theatre itself, with all its pretensions of illusion. Designer Alice Power has placed a stage within a stage within a stage – a receding series of flimsy proscenium arches and red velvet curtains. While the rickety set pieces sometimes feel a bit disingenuous on the grand stage of the Playhouse, there’s no question that Spymonkey are experts at playing amateur. In their hands, failure is an art form. The Sisyphean task of performing Dickens’ tale with a cast of just four becomes a running gag, as the quartet of performers wriggle frantically in and out of costumes and wigs. Getting the Cratchits’ brood of six around the table for Christmas dinner is a particularly riotous challenge. There are odd moments that feel like hangovers from the rehearsal room, funnier for cast than for audience. But for festive cheer drenched in irreverence, with all the best bits of Dickens, panto and Christmas pop culture, you can’t do much better than this.”

★★★★ Liverpool ECHO
“A Dickensian Rhapsody of silliness and swanky moves. This needs to be on your Christmas to-do list. We’re lucky ducks to have them at Liverpool Playhouse.”

★★★★ The Stage
“Inventive, sharp silliness.”

★★★★★ Good News Liverpool
“A masterpiece of madness. It’s difficult to describe how wonderful this production is. Hysterically funny theatre. Beautifully bonkers”

★★★★ Wirral Globe
A unique, imaginative interpretation of the tinsel-coated classic… Crazy comic capers… Laugh-out-loud.”

★★★★ Arts City Liverpool
“This is A Christmas Carol to join in lustily… Marries pathos and panto, silliness and sensibility in one irresistible Christmas confection… Showcases both the company’s anarchic spirit and attention to detail.”

★★★★★ Visit Liverpool

★★★★★ North West End
“The skill and the talent on display is remarkable… Festive fun at its best.”

★★★★★ Liverpool Sound & Vision
“Spymonkey return to Liverpool with a fabulous production, Christmas cheer in abundance.”

★★★★★ The Lowdown Magazine
“Spymonkey’s uniquely hilarious twist on a classic is five star festive fun… The entire production is excellently crafted… Comedy gold… Spymonkey’s productions are works of genius… A must see show… A wonderfully witty and superbly surreal production that will have you cheering for more.”