Christmas Review



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Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker


Starring Ronnie Corbitt

Plus special guests

Directed by Fiona Laird

Musical Director - Andy Melton

Designer - Michael Vale

Lighting Designer - Colin Grenfell

Sound Designer - Ed Clarke

Five Guys Named Moe Director Paul J Medford

Choreography - Paul J Medford

Royal Festival Hall

Southbank Centre

15 – 24 December 2009







A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


‘Tis the season to be jolly as the carol says, and comic legend Ronnie Corbitt definitely enables joviality. Corbitt, one half of TV’s favourite comedy duo, The Two Ronnies, along with the late Ronnie Barker of Porridge fame is as welcome a ‘guest’ as anyone could wish for to the Royal Festival Hall stage. A master storyteller/yarn spinner, Corbitt had smiles morphing into audible chuckles with seemingly, his every utterance; such is his ability to act naturally while he’s fully aware that he’s pulling our legs.

Television favourite Sandi Toksvig, with her topically quick wits and old time delivery makes a very suitable host for this pastiche of Panto/Variety show/live version of a Christmas telly special circa 1970’s, capable of making those of us who are admittedly, a little past it, remember when we’d sit in front of the goggle box after Christmas lunch, mince pies, chocolates and drinks at the ready, all set to watch some typically benign, thoroughly predictable, but no less enjoyable for it seasonal television fare.

A thump of the drums, a tinkle of the ivories amid a forest of wintery spruce trees and a grandfather clock standing tall in one corner and the show begins...Despite the fact that there seemed to be a technical snafu preventing us from being able to hear what was being said on a voice-over which was obviously meant to be heard, a man onstage was literally blown head over heels by a blizzard. Enter the Christmas fairy (Petra Massey), whose long red wig, exaggeratedly scowling demeanour and ditzy manner put me in mind of television comedienne Tracey Ullman circa 1987. Some corny but laughable sight gags and jokes helped things along, as did the use of some trite music, such as the theme from that dubious blockbuster, Titanic to laughingly signify that love was, indeed in the air.

Toby Park is also funny as the fairy’s love interest/Toksvig’s trusty assistant, Popov, as he’s very good at the physical humour the role demands, drawing laughs, especially from the children, with his pratfalls and other rubber-legged antics. Lily Kelley as the title child escapee from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, The Little Match Girl handles her songs very well, as other guest singers seemed to take notice of via admiring glances of encouragement, and Reeda Harris lends additional support as Skipov. Actress Sara Kestelman handles the role of The Crachits, meaning the Missus, and on press night, Stephen Mangan played Scrooge in a mini, deliberately botched up version of Dickens classic. Both roles change daily. A special treat for opera lovers is provided nightly by the resounding trio of Mark Lanahan, Peter Snipp and Aneirin Hughes, who also double as townspeople.

There are plenty of ‘It’s Behind You’s,’ ‘Bah Humbugs’, sing alongs and a group cracker pull (£2. – for Scrooge of the day’s chosen charity), sight gags, cringe worthy humour, audience participation and men in drag too. The show also offers some very funny jokes, wonderful singing, on the night we were there, from none other than West End star Maria Friedman, who performed a memorable version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ among other seasonal selections, Voicelab Choir who sang a selection of cracking carols acapella, and five talented fellows from Five Guys Named Moe, (Delroy Atkinson, Paul Hazel, AJ Lewis, Leon Maurice Jones and Marvin Springer) who sang and danced the title song and another jazzy, upbeat number from that show. On top of that, you’ll enjoy a rare opportunity to enjoy the good-natured humour of the inimitable Ronnie Corbitt – live. What more could you want, I hear you ask!  Ronnie Corbitt, along with host Sandi Toksvig happily, takes part in each and every performance. If you’d like to see who the guest stars will be in the show on any given date, check

Sandi Toksvig’s festive, good-natured Christmas Cracker offers an amiable alternative to traditional panto which all the family should enjoy.
One last word of advice – if you’ve got little ones, do treat them to a Christmas cracker, after all, it’s for charity and the warm glow of benevolence, the true meaning of the season, will then be yours.

Ticket Office: 0844 875 0073. Open 9am - 8pm each day.
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road





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