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Review: The Scouse Nativity at the Royal Court Theatre

By Nigel Smith

THE Royal Court have really excelled themselves with this year’s Christmas show.

This is Kevin Fearon’s second time in the writer’s seat, and he has hit a bullseye with a script that plays to every strength of the Court’s Christmas formula and, especially, his cast of comic actors, all of whom will be familiar faces to regular audiences.

Hayley Hampson and Michael Fletcher are Mary and Joseph, whilst Angela Gabriel, played by Lindzi Germain, is an angel hoping to be awarded her proper wings by God, for which she has a series of tasks – beginning with getting our young couple together.

Enter Herod (Paul Duckworth) the fiendish ruler who has his eyes set on Mary and will do anything to thwart Angela’s efforts, including disguising himself as a myriad of other unlikely characters.

Add to this a group of shepherds (or sometimes wise men) Andrew Schofield, Keddy Sutton and Stephen Fletcher, and there are the makings of comedy gold.

The band have been placed in the pit to afford room onstage for a piece of splendid set design. The actors open the pages of a giant book to reveal successive scenes, with occasional muttered curses as they do so.

The story is all there with, as you might expect, some previously unknown twists that were probably never mentioned in the Bible!

These really are a band of players with “funny bones” as the programme tells us. All of them make maximum mileage of the comic potential in the physicality of the show. Paul Duckworth and Andrew Scofield particularly have the ability to make the audience collapse into laughter by just walking on stage, and the multiplicity of disguises they turn up in are astonishing.

Watch out for side-splitting scenes in, for example, the birth of Jesus and an episode of the Jeremiah Kyle Show (really!)

Meanwhile the closing scene of the first half, after the birth, suddenly reminds you that this is a Christmas show and ends the act with quite a punch. Having Mary and Joseph singing “All I want for Christmas is you” might well be terribly silly (along with the jokes about Bethlehem being busy because it’s Christmas Eve) but it demonstrates the power of Hayley Hampson’s voice and her skill in using it. Lindzi Germain is no slacker in the singing stakes either, belting out some tremendous numbers while suspended by a wire.

The inclusion of members of the Court’s Community Choir is a great touch too, and they fill out several of the big ensemble numbers splendidly.

Director Cal McCrytstal (One Man Two Guvnors) has the cast timed to absolute perfection and ensures that the show is paced just right, so that it never outstays it’s welcome.

The Scouse Nativity is at the Royal Court until 13th January and the show has an age advisory of 16+ due to strong language throughout.

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