Stockings by the Fire: A Vaudeville Christmas Cabaret

Fri 2nd – Sat 3rd December 2011


Jessica Reid

at 00:16 on 3rd Dec 2011



‘Stockings by the Fire’ is a variety show based around the theme of Christmas. The main variety seemed to be that of talent amongst the performers. I was impressed by Miranda Bate and Hannah-Marie Chidwick as actors and Sara Garrard and Helena Hoyle as musicians. I felt however that the other performers had little to offer the group. It often felt reminiscent of the worst sort of devised GCSE performances. My main feeling towards the show is of confusion. What were they trying to achieve? Their depictions of the darker side of Christmas were undermined with earnest, nauseating manic smiling. They seemed to be aiming at satire but lacked the confidence or ability to achieve it.

When performing they seemed to take the show very seriously, but started 15 minutes late, were sloppy about the aesthetics (particularly the clumpy scene changes) and seemed to lack conviction. The show began with a band formed of children’s instruments. I hoped this was the start of dark and ironic humour; however, it appeared that it was just a means of introducing the notion of children to the show. Their inane caricatures of children would reappear again and again. It was very annoying. The act involving shadow puppets was especially irritating – it was a really innovative idea but they ruined it by having no control over the puppets, shaking them so that they changed in size and not developing the puppetry as a means of storytelling. The puppet would be held up to the light but it would not respond to the action described by the narrator. It felt like a wasted opportunity.

I enjoyed the Presents skit, where they and then we the audience played Pass the Parcel. It was really sweet and also a good use of the intimate relationship between the performers and audience. ‘A Bleak Christmas Carol’ was an extremely witty ode to Dickens and the most polished act. I also liked the singing in the ‘Gaudete’ and ‘Santa Baby’, of which the latter was really funny as they called for a volunteer and then directed the singing to him as he wore a Father Christmas hat.

The venue was awful. Obviously the show was a low budget one but I felt that by not even having lighting, let alone a stage, the performers were just making their lives harder. There just wasn’t a theatrical atmosphere. This wasn’t improved by the messy use of props and the lack of cohesion regarding costume. I feel very torn emotionally regarding ‘Stockings by the Fire’. As people, the members of Hecate Theatre Company seemed delightful, enthusiastic and loving. In an audience mostly consisting of family and friends, perhaps that was enough? In terms of performance, it needed more than a rigorous polish. It just wasn’t that good.



Pia Dhaliwal; 4th Dec 2011; 15:20:25

Would just like to point out for accuracy's sake that one of the performer's names was misspelled - it's Sara Garrard, not Sara Gerrard. Thank you.

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