Bah, Humbug! – Lyric Theatre – Review by Cathy Brown
By Grimes and McKee
Produced by the Lyric Theatre
17 Nov 2018 – 05 Jan 2019
Bah, Humbug!, the Lyric Theatre Belfast’s festive production this year, sees comedy duo Conor Grimes and Alan McKee take Dickens’ traditional festive story A Christmas Carol and give it a modern, comic and particularly Northern Ireland flavour.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Condron) is a property developer with a Range Rover and a great coat. He worships Gordon Gekko, works over Christmas and avoids spending any time with his hippy niece and only family member Ash (Sophie Harkness). He treats his longest-serving employee Bob Cratchitt with disdain and is only concerned with the Boxing Day sale of apartments in his rather Trumpian named Ebenezer Plaza. Can the three Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future show Scrooge the error of his ways?
The play – first performed in 2007 – has been updated with contemporary references such as the commodification of the Cathedral Quarter and the burning down of listed buildings. In a nice touch, the long-dead Jacob Marley makes initial contact through Scrooge’s Alexa – a literal ghost in the machine. However, a song and dance number featuring a British soldier and some tap-dancing terrorists strike an odd note while the depiction of the poverty-stricken Cratchitt family stretches stereotypical cliché as far as it will go.
The play’s success relies heavily on the five actors who ably play a variety of roles. Grimes and McKee have a natural charisma and chemistry on stage that comes from years of working together and are particularly amusing as McFezziwig and the over-grown Tiny Tim respectively. Roisin Gallagher displays strong physical comic talent as Scrooge’s little sister and the vaping, leopard-print wearing Mrs. Cratchitt while Michael Condron manages well in the somewhat thankless role of Scrooge. If his performance may sometimes feel a little one note, this is more a symptom of the script and of playing the straight man to a revolving cast of eccentrics and comedic turns.
Particular credit must go to Rod McVey, who provides live musical accompaniment to the action, investing the soundtrack with both menace and fun.
The comedy in Bah Humbug is broad and obvious and some of the quieter, potentially more subtle moments, get lost amid the laughs. The darker side of Dickens’ source material is hinted at rather than explored and even the creepier scenes in the production produce laughs rather than chills. Frankie McCafferty, who played Scrooge in the original production, directs with a light, gleeful touch. The show is undoubtedly entertaining, however, the second half peters out slightly and is salvaged only with some ingenious audience participation.
There is no point looking for any subtlety in Bah Humbug!, what you get instead is irreverent humour, a good laugh and an enjoyable journey along the road to Scrooge’s self-discovery. Fans of Grimes and McKee will not be disappointed.