Thursday, 13 January 2011

Badjelly's Bad Christmas

You've only got today, tomorrow and the day after that left in which to go to Chickenshed Theatre to see their splendid show Badjelly's Bad Christmas (four performances remaining). The show, written by Jo Collins and David Carey of Chickenshed,  is based on Spike Milligan's various works and centred on the character of Badjelly the Witch who featured in a fairy story Spike wrote sometime in the early 1970s.
For a Christmas show it's not really very Christmassy which, as far as I'm concerned is A Good Thing. Chickenshed simply use the baubles for the Christmas tree as a plot device, and the plot isn't necessarily that important when you're dealing with Spike Milligan*. Like Chekhov, Mr Milligan was more about generating moments, ideas, jokes and glimpses of life. But, of course, as the show is for the family it has been given a beginning, middle and end and the goodies not only win in the end but the baddie turns good. You won't find that very often in Chekhov though.
Any road up, the show is rather good and makes excellent use of Spike's work. There's a lorra lorra laffs and excellent performances from the cast. It must have been quite a task for Chickenshed to organise. They have used four different rotas (or casts) so that the show could run for some sixty performances in all, there being a limit on how many shows children can do in any given period. Getting them rehearsed and confident in their roles requires not just commitment and discipline but also dedication. And it's that feeling of dedication that comes through the performance, reflecting Spike Milligan's own enthusiasm and child-like joy in having fun.
*Many of Spike's sketches for his Q5 TV show ended with the cast saying in unison 'What are we going to do now?' rather than a punchline. Chickenshed slip this line into the show so I'll give them a bonus point.

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