Theatre review: A Basement Christmas Carol

By Janet McAllister

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The Christmas play is a greatly anticipated Basement tradition, combining a volunteer cast on high rotate with loads of punny fun for a festive fundraiser.

This is an amusing village play where everybody in the village is a talented professional actor, up on stage showing off after only a couple of hours of rehearsal with in-demand director Sophie Roberts.

The setting is as relaxed and grungy as the play: tables and seats are haphazard, and Simon Coleman's wraparound set looks as messy as Miss Haversham's attic.

Using a well-known Dickens narrative means writers Nic Sampson and Barnaby Fredric can focus on embellishments, surprise gimmicks and pop culture references.

Within the space of one sentence, the Ghost of Christmas Past (a 19th century New Zealand icon) alludes to Back to the Future, Harry Potter and Narnia.

It's not trying to be too clever; other jokes are corny. Literally corny.

Only two cast members are permanent: Scrooge ( or "Screw-idge", as the ghost of Christmas yet to come put it on Thursday) and Bobbi Cractchitt (Bree Peters, who sings the show's small handful of songs by Joseph Moore beautifully).

Gareth Williams as Scrooge holds the work together marvellously with great comic timing and a repertoire of toothy reactions. He's wonderfully Scroogey: "The decorated corpse of a baby tree isn't going to keep the [Grim] Reaper from the door," he snaps.

Cameos include the semi-famous impersonating the famous: among those affectionately caricatured are a former Prime Minister and a top-level journalist. On Thursday, Ian Hughes channelled the barking Mad Butcher doing "barbeque sorcery" with a pair of chicken drumstick maracas as excellently as if he were on Stars in Their Eyes.

But who knows? Peter Leitch could be Cameron Rhodes, Michael Hurst, Bryony Skillington or Byron Coll on the night you attend.

Charlie Baptist's costumes are entertainingly pantomime. You're in safe silly hands. Leave the Christmas stress at home, pick up a wine and enjoy the froth.

If you book online it's $30; door sales $35.

What: A Basement Christmas Carol
Where: The Basement Theatre, to December 21

- NZ Herald

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