Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Le Navet Bete - The Barbican Theatre - A Christmas Carol Review

The Barbican Theatre invited me along to the press night of their new Christmas show, A Christmas Carol by Le Navet Bete last week and I enjoyed every minute. 

Le Navet Bete are a comedy theatre group from Exeter and following their sell- out performances in Plymouth, including The Jungle Book, Robin Hood and The Wizard of Oz, they have launched their seventh Christmas show: A Christmas Carol. This year, the show is performed at Plymouth’s much loved but recently abandoned Athenaeum theatre in central Plymouth. I remember adoring this theatre as a child, as I used to watch my little sister perform her ballet shows on stage. Years later, the theatre was mothballed and has been dark since 2009 – that’s since Le Navet Bete bought it back to life with their 10-performance run of Le Navet Bete’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth earlier this year. The Athenaeum is a wonderful theatre venue and I am ecstatic that it is being bought to life in Plymouth again. I really do hope this continues with more wonderful shows. 

A Christmas Carol is a co- production between Le Navet Bete and The Barbican Theatre – of whom I am already a major fan of. It’s my first experience of Le Navet Bete, but from the Barbican’s fantastic repertoire of theatre collaborations and word-of-mouth around Plymouth, I was expecting wonderful things. 

A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite festive stories and Le Navet Bete’s hilarious comedy twist on the classic is hugely refreshing. Their production follows the story we all know and love but introduce the audience to some slightly different characters to what we’re used to… 
Jacob Marley was hilariously hairy... the Ghost of Christmas Past dons a white all-in-one suit and a extremely amusing high-pitched voice. The Ghost of Christmas Present hops around on bouncy stilts and the Ghost of Christmas future embodies a huge, spider- like creature which takes up much of the stage. The new imaginations of the traditional characters are hilarious and completely innovative. 

The beginning of the show starts with a bang and is followed by a narrative to introduce the story. Although I was initially somewhat sceptic about the use of comedy as I’m not a fan of silly, slapstick, panto-esque humour – I was thoroughly surprised and enjoyed the comedy immensely. It is full of clever wit and genuinely hilarious puns. It took me a little while to warm to but I was very soon laughing out loud in my seat. 

There are elements of pantomime in the show as a nod to the festive season with fun audience participation and interaction but it is still very true to the traditional theatrical piece. 

The set is wonderful and fantastically utilised the larger Athenaeum stage – I particularly enjoyed the two-layered set piece that portrayed Scrooge’s office which he shared with Bob Cratchit. There were some great and dynamic pieces which, although seemingly simple, created a whole festive world on stage. 

The costumes were just as impressive – my favourite being the Ghost of Christmas Future. I was in awe when it entered the stage; The Barbican Theatre are great at creating beautiful products of simple ingredients. This costume consisted of just four stilts and black fabric but created a threatening yet magical creature which was a stand- out in the show. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. It’s a refreshing take on a festive classic – Le Navet Bete have created something so creative, cheerful and Christmas-ey! It’s a great alternative to a traditional pantomime this year and I absolutely urge Plymouth families to go along to check it out. Let’s keep staging fantastic shows in this fantastic old Plymouth venue! 

Thanks to the Barbican Theatre and Le Navet Bete for inviting me along!

Merry Christmas!

Ellie Mae x


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