The Lamb and Lion Inn offered a particularly up-close-and-personal approach to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this Christmas. The Flanagan Collective, responsible for York’s Mystery Plays this summer, were back to showcase their own take on the Christmas classic with a truly interactive and accessible attitude to audience involvement.
This was light-hearted and harmless fun, steering away from pantomime participation and asking only for the ring of a bell, an occasional collective sing of a Christmas hit or even a game of twenty questions to create a feeling of intimacy and genuine sense of togetherness in director Tom Bellerby’s adaptation.
John Holt Roberts’ Jacob Marley was our guide for the evening, leading us from our contemporary surroundings to meet Scrooge in his Dickensian parlour, complete with open fire and an overwhelming ambience from the smell of mulled wine. Over the next two hours our task was set, and as we enjoyed a two-course meal and a flagon of ale the guests played a central role in Marley’s plot to convert Scrooge to the joys of Christmas and festive frivolity.
Speaking with writer Alexander Wright, his approach succeeded in staying true to the definite themes of the original whilst employing the use of only two actors, requiring careful condensation. As one of the most told stories over this period, it is one open to interpretation and with this comes the capacity to mould the story to its surroundings. With such a wholly intimate venue, the dinner-theatre template fits this production and the actors hand in hand, and despite the lack of the traditional ghost appearance, the relationship between the actors and audience still conveyed the heartfelt warmth and meaning wrapped up in the story.
Ed Wren’s Scrooge was played particularly rambunctiously, and over the course of the evening he opened himself up slowly to a transformation through some knees-up high jinks and well oiled revelry, resulting in him, at one point, cart-wheeling down Petergate in a wee-willy-winky-esque nightdress and slippers. As an intimate production, it’s refreshing to see an element of improvisation is utilised, and what the audience put in is most definitely reflected on the outcome by some quick-thinking and often humorous responses from Scrooge and Marley.