The Lock In Christmas Carol
Devised and produced by Damien Barber
Sunday 20th November 2016, 7.30 pm
The Demon Barbers XL
The Breaking Tradition Dance Company
This follow up to much-acclaimed The Lock In brings the concept to Christmas Eve at the Olde Fighting Cocks pub. The landlady, Jasmineezer Scrooge is preparing to launch a new Oomphah Techno Bar, specialising in “alchopops, seedy lighting and mind-numbing bass beats.”
The production is between unclassifiable, and classifiable under theatre … or dance … or concerts … or Christmas. It is very different and full of life and a sense of raucous enjoyment. This was just the second night of the tour, and it’s all one off gigs. A pity in a way … if they’d been doing a three night run, I’d have gone again with my grandkids and phoned several people to say “don’t miss this … it’s so full of life.”
Damian Barber is the narrator as well as (theoretically) Marley’s ghost, and this is more theatre, less concert than The Lock In. They don’t do their own folk material, and Damian can be found more often among the dancers than with the band. While he sings lead on a couple of numbers, he only plays a little concertina, and no guitar. Ben Griffith, back in drag as the pub landlady, doesn’t touch drums at all until the second half.
It’s a Christmas Entertainment. The nearest thing is pantomime, they use lots of panto elements, but is also dance theatre, so as ever we have tap dancing, hip hop dancing, break dancing and Morris dancing (in a contemporary way). The band are led by Bryony Griffih on violin and vocals, taking the melody line on most of it. Angus Milne is on bass guitar (guitar for one song). There is an added new drummer … Ben Griffith is otherwise engaged, and there is a keyboard player. Cunningly what looks like an upright pub piano is cut away with an electronic keyboard installed … it has a straight piano setting, but is also used as organ, and electronic keys. Mostly they’re four piece, though their tap dancers add second violin and accordion in one, and Damian adds concertina twice. In the second part (when they’ve largely finished the story), Ben Griffith moves to drums so they have a twin drummer sound.
The music is terrific, and the two tap dancers are an extra percussion instrument. I guess Christmas music is a major “folk music.” In the instrumental sections behind the dance we had carols, we had Christmas pop songs and themes, we had a piano led White Christmas, we had Winter Wonderland, we had Bryony Griffith playing a long Lieutenant Kije, though the reference would be Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas which adopted the tune. As it was instrumental, we’ll call it Lieutenant Kije. I’d love to see it again and play Spot That Tune with Briony Griffith’s melodies … Little Donkey … Away in A Manger… so many of them.
There was a lot of audience participation, clapping, singing, playing musical chairs on stage. We had Damian singing lead on a folk rock Jingle Bells. We had an audience singalong to Twelve Days of Christmas, in two halves of course, with the dancers doing charades to prompt the script. As well as the display of break dancing, two extended “Sword dances” with Damian Barber among the dancers were highlights.
It’s a Christmas Show they could do for years … Damian Barber does backflips with the much younger dancers too. It has a lovely improvisational, seat of the pants feel at times, as when the Ghost of Christmas Present’s mic failed, and Damian Barber had to change the battery. All taken in stride too.
When you arrive, the foyer of Poole Lighthouse has several Morris Dancing groups performing. They’ve done this before, extending the entertainment. The really big surprise was when we were filing out and the whole cast raced out, led by The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future on saxophone, which we hadn’t seen before. They had guitar, violin, percussion and did a storming number in a semi-circle with athletic break dancing. Two small kids joined in.
Audience was wildly enthusiastic, but there were too few of us. Sunday night doesn’t help. Poole does well with dance, but you get groups along from schools and dancing classes, and teachers don’t organise such trips on a Sunday. I felt a weekday evening would have enlarged the audience. A lot of people were previous fans or into folk, or morris dancing. The potential constituency for this event is far wider than the already loyal fan base.
Their latest CD was on sale. Given no pictures yet, let’s put it in.