Laughter is said to be the best healer and there is little doubt you will feel better after the Farndale version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. It will bring a broad smile to your face at the opening of the festive season.
From the very first moment you enter Millgate Arts the show has begun. Gordon Pugh with his clipboard and Mrs Reece with her handbag are there to welcome you …. and assess your acting potential.You settle down in the auditorium to Christmassy music and admire the pastel coloured Christmas card of a stage design by Sally McKee, soon to be complemented by the bright primaries of Scrooge’s bed and front door.
The ensemble of five work well together; most have played the Farndale Residents’ Association Townswomen’s Guild Amateur Dramatics Society’s (phew!) characters before. Flexible and talented, they assume all the parts necessary to present both the hapless amateur theatre group and the Dickensian characters needed to tell the story.
Sue Stephenson as Thelma and Pauline Walsh as Mrs Reece relish outplaying the other for the lead actress award as Scrooge and Tiny Tim. Pauline Walsh’s comic timing and interaction with the audience keeps everyone engaged and Sue Stephenson’s “I should be on the West End” Ebenezer sets the diva standard.
John Tanner as Gordon Pugh, the stage manager and only man, is roped in to be Marley and anyone else he is bullied into playing. He succeeds in just about clinging to control with the air of the clumsy Frank Spencer.
Margaret Thompson excellently plays Mercedes who struggles both with her neck brace and entrances. Keri Ely as Felicity is delightfully convincing as the keen but stage shy ingenue who ends up in the most precarious costumes.
Participation is encouraged in the best Panto fashion and the audience on the first night sang and laughed throughout. The support crew at Millgate are as professional as ever and Verity Mann’s direction wrings every ounce of humour from the show. I am still chuckling over one or two of the best lines even now. This show is just the pre- Christmas tonic we need in the grim dark nights of November. It runs Tuesday 23rd-Saturday 27th November @7.30pm at Millgate Arts Centre in Delph.