The regular reader of this blog may have picked up the subtle hints that we quite like Christmas in our house. The Muppets Christmas Carol has already had an airing from the ‘classic Christmas films’ folder on our BT TV box; and the past two weekends has seen C. and me trawling around Christmas departments in various retail outlets. An agreement has now been reached that our Christmas tree will be retrieved from the garden shed and assembled and decorated next Sunday (the earliest that we will ever have done this, but it seems somehow necessary this dark (literally and figuratively) winter.
This evening, the three of us made our way to the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff city centre for a performance of a musical version of the Dr Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s no doubt that this production would work best in a theatre setting, where the cast and audience are able to be more connected. The story and this version of it, demands a degree of intimacy. The Motorpoint Arena, for all it’s other strengths, is about as intimate as a loading bay (and just as soulless, to be honest). Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable re-telling of the story, featuring a score of appropriately saccharin songs and over the top acting demanded by the Dr Seuss original.
Edward Baker-Duly as the Grinch hammed it up beautifully, milking the audience and striking the balance between old misery-guts and misunderstood outcast, desperate just to be accepted. Griff Rhys-Jones was a revelation as ‘Old Max’, the Grinch’s dog and effectively the narrator of the story. Rhys-Jones showed off a surprisingly good singing voice, and formed a lovely partnership with Matt Terry as Young Max. The Whos were all unfailingly happy, smiley and determined to think the best of everybody – including the Grinch.
This was an enjoyable, feel-good production that was faithful to the original book and bore comparison with the Jim Carey film version (which is praise indeed). Today was the last day of the run in Cardiff, but the show now moves on to Edinburgh and then Birmingham, before a long run over Christmas and the New Year at the Lowry in Salford Quays.
I have had the great discomfortpain pleasure of spending time on each of the last two Saturdays in Christmas departments of retail outlets. Last week it was Harrods; today it was a large garden centre and shopping outlet to the north of Cardiff. I love Christmas, but I hate Christmas shopping with equal passion. Normally, however, the Christmas departments are just about bearable. I like the gaudy baubles for the tree; and the musical Father Christmases or Elves, with their festive melodies and over-the-top laughs. The bright colours and gauchely tasteless nature of Christmas decorations really appeals to me.
This year, however, something weird is happening. Last week at Harrods it was all pastel shades and muted colours – more like a high end paint palette chart than the gaudily bright colours that normally signify Christmas. Today, though, was even worse. When did swans become a Christmas decoration? And what have unicorns, mermaids and llamas (that is a llama in the middle of that tree, isn’t it?) have to do with the festive season?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favour of progress and change. I understand that the environmental half-life of tinsel is now just less than nuclear waste; and we need to wrap our presents in paper that can be easily recycled once it’s been ripped to pieces on Christmas morning. But there’s something surreal about Christmas decorations fashioned to look like rainbows. For myself, I’ll be sticking to traditional decorations that speak to the things that really matter this Christmas.
#3 : “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” returns to our TV screens this evening. Naturally, I don’t watch it myself, but Mrs Pearce is an addict, and some of it seeps into my unconscious without me even realising it!