Grimes and McKee’s modern day Christmas Carol opening couldn’t have been more timely for me as, just weeks before, I had battled with my otherwise amazing other half because the last quarter of the year turns him completely business-obsessed and easily-impressed by the power of clients - some of whom are property moghuls who put profit before people. All that ‘networking’ until 4am at the Merchant or Malmaison rather than coming home meant that Michael Condron’s Ebeneezer character touched quite a sore nerve.
The story in brief is that Ebeneezer Scrooge (played fantastically by Condron) is the richest property developer in Belfast and, like in the original Dickens’ novel, he is visited by ghosts of the Christmas past, present and future in an effort to show him the error of his selfish, miserly and profit-focused ways and to encourage him to share his time and resources with those who matter.
Condron is brilliant as Scrooge - just as great on stage and in character as he had been earlier this year playing the twisted Pastor in Sinners. But each of the other actors (Grimes, McKee, Roisin Gallagher and Sophie Harkness ) was amazing in their myriad roles throughout the play, delivering script and form as varied as they come - and packed with jollity too.
In short, Ebenezer is a real Scrooge type whose only gods are money and success and who abandoned his only family (a niece borne of his beloved sister who died in childbirth) in favour of these. The same miserly figure treats his staff abysmally, and swans around the city in his brand new Range Rover not giving a proverbial f*%k about culture (there were some good Cathedral Quarter jibes in there which went down with the Lyric crowd). The play tells the same story as the original, but with local relevance as well as a global (and important) message. There is plenty of great music too, with lots of rehashed classic Christmas songs and the odd 80s number. [And on this note, my only critique was the choice of the Conga as the whole ‘mood change’ music in the second act. It was kinda lost on me and I wished it had been different/better/something else, but that might have changed by the time Christmas comes around].
Sometimes I get bored of Norn Iron humour - and not because I’m one of those snobby arts people, but I just think we can do better than the clichéd ‘aye right, love’ // ‘yer da, my ma’ kind of script. However when it’s done right, à la Jimmy Young in his 1970s peak, our humour is frickin’ hilarious and Bah Humbug sets this tone brilliantly.
Bah, Humbug! runs at Lyric Theatre Belfast from 17 Nov 2018 – 05 Jan 2019 8pm (17 & 18 Nov: £15).
Tickets: £22.50, Concessions (Students, Unemployed & Under 20’s): £15, over 65’s any matinee: £15.
For further information and bookings visit: www.lyrictheatre.co.uk