Review of 'Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas'


A charming live version of the Raymond Briggs classic “Father Christmas” which was offered online this year due to the pandemic. We follow Father Christmas (Barry McCarthy) as he prepares for the big day then follow him as he travels around the world delivering presents for the children.

What is magical about this story is how it is so British: Here we see Father Christmas engaged in much more mundane matters such as getting dressed, feeding his cat, going to the toilet, etc. A wonderfully understated yet charming take on the traditional Father Christmas story. There is a sense of mild humour throughout as Father Christmas gripes and groans his way through his daily chores that just happens to include an amazing travel itinerary.

This socially distanced version of the play did include several other players including Kate Adams charmingly providing the music and sound effects from a booth above the right side of the stage who is often directly involved in the action. There is also copious use of puppetry here by David Emmings, notably the rather cantankerous cat. The stage hands, often wearing COVID-safe masks, silently appear on the stage to change the scenery as the play progresses making no effort to hide which adds to the charm of the piece. The sets are ingenious in conveying the story – Drawers appearing out of no-where, lights flickering in the houses as Father Christmas clambers over them, and the wonderful sleigh with magnificent reindeer puppets on the front.

I can see that younger children would very much enjoy the performance with it's simple sense of wonder but they may find it a bit slow moving in parts. This streamed version of the show is dynamic and should keep them entertained with the camera moving around to follow the action as it unfolds, taking us onto the stage and into the story…

It has to be said that Barry McCarthy is a tour-de-force as he eats up the scenery with just the right amount of dialogue and an effortless-seeming performance. He utterly convinces as the “jolly old elf”. It is a perfectly honed performance that utterly evokes the Father Christmas from the original story – Never condescending, gentle and yet reasonably true to real life with the aches and pains of an older man. Somehow McCarthy hits all of his marks in a complicated choreographed dance that never lets up.

Though it has the feel of a local, amateur production (in a warm, good way), this is far from it with a well-polished performance whose stagecraft never gets in the way of the story but rather enhances the experience. It is a production that never really takes itself too seriously with a warmth that is perfectly tuned for this time of the year.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-12-21

Lyric Hammersmith

Location: London (England)

Address: Lyric Square, King St, London W6 0QL ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Hammersmith

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8741 6850


lyric.jpg The Lyric is the center of not only live theatre but also in encouraging young people in pursuing a career in the theatre. Recently it completed a refurbishment including the Reuben Foundation Wing with state of the art educational and entertainment facilities. The Lyric makes free tickets available to local residents and workers for every show's first night. Located above the Kings Mall the main classically-decorated horseshoe auditorium is more than 100 years old and there is also a roof-top bar and cafe.