White Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse by Nick Ahad ***
It’s me. I’m the one person in the Western world who has never seen the film White Christmas.
Maybe that’s why it took until well into the second act before this piece, brilliantly put together, grabbed me.
Christmas is special, but the event itself, particularly in an increasingly secular society, is meaningless – it’s the significance we attach to it that makes the event. Similarly, I expect the people who will really love this show have to really love the movie.
The rest of us – me – will find a show that has something missing. The choreography from Nick Winston is impressive and director Nikolai Foster has done some brilliant work on what looks like a limited budget. The actors are for the most part very good, and in one or two examples really, really good.
So, where’s the problem? The story. Sometimes plots are jotted down on the back of a napkin – it feels like this one never got anything further than that napkin. Soldiers- turned-entertainers put on a show to save their former general’s hotel. Done.
It means the first act feels dragged out enormously and the second act has to work very hard to pull us back. That, however, does warm up nicely and builds to an old-fashioned denouement including a sing-a-long to the eponymous song, helped along by an old-fashioned – in a very good way – performance from Darren Day in the Bing Crosby role.
Lord of the Flies, Bradford Alhambra by Stephanie Ferguson ****
ICONIC book, harrowing film and now Golding’s dystopian tale of boy’s inhumanity to boy becomes powerful dance theatre in the hands of maestro Matthew Bourne. The Re:Bourne production, the culmination of a national project involving more than 8,000 young male dancers, ended its tour here with a standing ovation.
Chorographer Scott Ambler, originally from Leeds, soon flips his ordered ranks of short-trousered schoolboys into two tribes with some searing images of savagery plus moving tenderness. The New Adventures men are joined by twenty-two local lads and the stage throbs with talent for the future.
Instead of being marooned on the desert island, the boys take refuge in an old theatre while the conflict rages outside. They can’t escape and gradually order becomes chaos as the devil makes work for idle hands. Lez Brotherston’s clever set is all scaffold and gantries with a huge Shell oil drum beaten instead of the conch blown in the book. Ambler creates Haka-style ensembles for the feral choirboys with stomping and shouting, counterpointed by gentle solos for the sacrificial, Christ-like Simon, brilliantly danced by Layton Williams. A triumph.music