Fred Lawless’ innovative production Merry Ding Dong certainly has humour, it is filled with songs, yet neither are fit for the kids. In a festive twist, the Royal Court provide an adult treat, where vicars are drunk, carols are cynical and jokes are x-rated.
In terms of narrative, the story is simple. One red family. One blue family. Chris and Noel (played by Stephen Fletcher and Jake Abraham), once friends, are now conflicting neighbours - one a supporter of Everton blue, the other a Liverpool red. Yet, despite their disagreements, their wives are best friends and their scholarly son and emo daughter are secretly in love. Thrown into a perfect comedy recipe, can Chris and Noel learn to forgive and forget ‘The Talcre Incident’, the ultimate cause of their fallout?
There is a real sense of community spirit from the audience, Liverpudlian humour tickling you so much, that you can’t help but laugh. Santa Claus isn’t coming to town in this show, rather, he’s ‘getting pissed off’, and in the funniest adaptation of them all, ‘The Snowman’ theme tune is placed in the most surreal context, causing an outburst of applause from within the auditorium.
The seven members of the cast ooze energy, and it truly looks like they have had such fun during rehearsal. Older members of the cast, when dancing, sometimes remind me of drunken aunties and uncles at a Christmas party, however, their vocals and harmonies are just beautiful. What is more, like panto, it is lovely to see people stepping out of their comfort zones, losing any inhibitions, to get into the Christmas spirit. Alan Stock’s portrayal of the intoxicated priest is not one to be missed, being the absolute steal of the whole show.
Furthermore, although utterly bizarre, Eithne Browne (Holly) and Lindzi Germain (Ivy) shine in a hairdresser multi-role, bearing resemblance to the charisma and silliness of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Some scenes do go on too long, jokes have ‘on and off’ moments but on the whole Lawless’ writing is cleverly diverse, It contains a selection of eclectic songs and being performed on a simple, yet effective set (windows of houses opening like those in an advent calendar).
Merry Ding Dong is about as far removed from the nativity as you are going to get, ultimately providing something different for adults to enjoy this December.
*Photograph taken by Dave Evans