Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Twist

Anamnesis 25.12
Mercury Theatre Wales
Chapter Arts Centre
19th December 2014

Having started their development of this production early this year Mercury Theatre Wales have spent the best part of twelve months perfecting their alternative Christmas offering - Anamnesis 25.12.

By collecting stories from a wide range of people of all faiths and ages Mercury Theatre Wales wanted to produce a show that represented what Christmas is actually like for most us. Rather than the ruddy cheeked cherubim of chocolate boxes children are often rowdy and over excited. Grandparents do not sit quietly by the fire, but rather seem to gain their enjoyment by criticising all the hard work that has gone into the day. The festive period is often when tensions run over or painful memories come to the surface.

By working with a team of writers these stories come together in Anamnesis 25.12. On a hospital ward at Christmas time we get a glimpse into each patient’s Christmas past. Some of the memories are painful and sad whereas others show families pulling together at difficult times. Using different writers for each scene has allowed each individual story to have a unique feel to it, without disrupting the unity of the production as a whole.

The format of the show is fresh, as is the content, offering something enjoyably different to the usual theatrical fare at this time of year. Presented in a semi-promenade style the audience’s attention is directed to different playing areas as each patient invites us on a trip down memory lane, guided by the wonderfully cast Louisa Lorey as the ward sister.

Unfortunately this Christmas feast is a little overstuffed, all the to-ing and fro-ing becomes very predictable. With some cuts this production could be a slick and engaging piece, in its current format I often found myself losing interest in the main action and watching the busy on-stage production team.

There is a good balance between comedy and sentimentality throughout and the audience are immediately invited to get into the participatory spirit by singing carols to the patients. Lynn Hunter, as always, gives her all to the performance, becoming excitable 8 year old Holly. Whereas Sarah-Louise Tyler convincingly plays her down-trodden mother who is trying to make the most of Christmas despite her alcoholic husband’s best attempts to drink away any money they had for presents.

Many of the scenes have this underlying tension or sadness but his mood does not overwhelm the show. Overall it is rather uplifting and certainly raises a smile. One of the final scenes, in which a middle class daughter brings a homeless man to dinner, adds an element of farce that -although a little outdated - does deliver the laughs.

An enjoyable show, that is entertainingly different. Certainly not perfect... but then again Christmas never is.

After the sell out run in Chapter Arts Centre Anamnesis 25.12 is now on tour:

The Lord Mayor's Reception Room,

The Guildhall, St. Helen's Cresent,
Swansea SA1 4PE
29&30 December 7pm
31 December 1.30pm

Pontardawe Arts Center,
Herbert Street,
Pntardawe SA8 4ED
3 January 1.30pm