Written by ExTS Reviewer, Pippa Meaker
Advisory – Humbug! Has been designed with younger audience members in mind but aspects of the show may be too frightening for some children. Recommended age is 8+.
This is a promenade performance. Some seating will be available during the show but there may be sections where you will be required to stand. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this historic venue, Humbug! is not suitable for wheelchair users.
Doors open 30 minutes before the show. Latecomers will not be admitted so please arrive early to avoid disappointment. The show lasts approximately 80 minutes and there is no interval. St Nicholas Priory can get quite cold in winter. Warm layers and coats are highly recommended.
I arrive at St Nicholas Priory having felt rather gloomy all day. Opening the door, I am hit by the comforting aroma of mulled wine and mince pies and immediately feel my mood lift - do take change to offer a donation for these refreshments as there is no signal to enable card payments. Once all gathered, we are led upstairs by the cowed and eager to please Bob Cratchit and taken into Scrooge’s office. With just the sound of a clock ticking we cast our eyes onto the man himself, Ebenezer Scrooge, and our Christmas tale begins.
I have watched and enjoyed a variety of adaptions of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ but never in such an atmospheric setting. St Nicholas Priory is (as you would expect of a priory founded in 1087 and frequented by Benedictine Monks for over 400 years) steeped in history and you can almost feel it coming out of the brickwork. Add to this venue some clever lighting tricks and some well thought out audio and visual effects and it is magical.
As the tale progresses, we are led on a mini tour of the building, each room portraying a different element of the story. The spirit of Christmas past, beautifully played by Richard Feltham who doubles up as Bob Cratchit, engages fabulously with the audience and displays an impressive feat of memory that for me was one of the highlights of the show. The spirit of Christmas present is a cheeky chap who ramps up the comedy elements and builds up the audience participation (note – please do not let those last two words put you off, whilst you are encouraged to interact you are never singled out or made to feel uncomfortable). The spirit of Christmas future is by far the most sinister spirit and we meet in a fantastically spooky setting. Charlie Coldfield, in his portrayal of Scrooge, pitches it perfectly. Dour and mean he is still recognisably human, not a caricature, and the story and its eventual conclusion benefits from this more subtle approach.
Humbug manages to stay true to the story whilst adding lots of humour and even some modern references. Though the Wandering Tiger Company have been blessed with the perfect natural set, the clever audio-visual touches and a smattering of props bring the story to life and really help in getting the audience involved. The musical elements of the production, mostly provided by the talented Benjamin Akira Tallamy, are brilliantly executed and help ensure that every one of our senses is stimulated by the show. I really don’t want to give too much away as I was delighted and surprised at every turn.
It won’t come as a surprise when I say I absolutely loved this show. I was left with a real feeling of a positive shared experience, and as I made my way out of the building, I could hear members of the audience heaping praise on each of the hugely talented cast. I smiled the whole way home. Attendance should be compulsory. I challenge even the Scroogiest amongst you not to love it.
Humbug! is running at 4pm and 7pm up until the 24th December at St Nicholas Priory. Adults £14, Children £10, Family £44. Tickets are selling fast with limited availability remaining. Tickets tickets can be bought online or by calling the TicketSource Box Office 0333 666 3366. https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/298037
If you enjoyed this review, why not check out Pippa's review of Walking With God which also performed at St Nicholas Priory! https://www.exetheatrescene.co.uk/post/review-walking-with-god