Review: Merry Ding Dong
Go on, get festive at the Royal Court
Merry Ding Dong is the specially commissioned Christmas show at the Royal Court this year. It's written by Fred Lawless, co-creator of another of the venue's hits, Slappers and Slapheads, and I'd say one of the strongest writing talents involved there.
So I was looking forward to this one, having found last year's seasonal offering, a production of Night Collar, a bit too crude for my liking. Lawless does crude but it also comes with the laughs and some really affectionately drawn characters.
I took it as a good sign that I was laughing out loud almost straight away. The pace of the story was just right, and the musical numbers consistantly funny.
Ah, musical parody, usually so abused and maligned. Think Chris Moyles or Lenny Henry, cringeworthy and show-offy, and criminally unfunny. But the reworkings of Christmas carols used throughout Merry Ding Dong are witty and charming. You might think a song renamed Santa Claus is Getting Pissed Off gratuitous, but this just isn't one of those shows.
It's a bit of a cliche really, "it shouldn't work but it does" - and that's not really what I'm trying to say about this show - but it's a fine balance between something like this being an insular, bolshy Scouse love in or something with wider appeal.
I've said before that Slappers and Slapheads did that well, and again Lawless treads that fine line and in the end pleases everybody - there's LFC and EFC rivalry, but it's not overbearing for those who don't follow football. It's very Scouse in an affectionate way but it is not really a defining or alienating factor.
Plotwise, it's nothing new but isn't claiming to be. Neighbours who have had a falling out get competitive during a Christmas lights competition, their wives are torn and remain best friends, and their teenage children are falling in love.
The cast's enthusiasm shows. Jake Abraham and Stephen Aintree are the warring Red and Blue Noel and Chris respectively. The reason for their fallout is only hinted at throughout the play and the big reveal, adapted to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland is utterly priceless.
Eithne Brown and Linzi Germain are their usual reassuring presences on the Royal Court stage, Brown as slinky MILF Holly and Germain as brash mother hen Ivy. Stephen Fletcher and Rachel Rae delight in their roles as the star crossed teens and show off great voices and real personality, and Alan Stocks provides comic relief on the comic relief with a number of silly supporting roles, most notably the drunken Irish priest.
If you're still waiting to feel Christmassy then this will do the trick, I'd almost guarantee it.