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Review: It's not all bah humbug at A Biddy's Christmas Carol

PUBLISHED: 13:58 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 06 December 2019

Mark Finbow and Kiara Hawker, who between them play all the characters in A Biddy's Christmas Carol      Picture: AL PULFORD

Mark Finbow and Kiara Hawker, who between them play all the characters in A Biddy's Christmas Carol Picture: AL PULFORD

AL PULFORD PHOTOGRAPHY

From miserly to merry, A Biddy's Christmas Carol is a festive journey that families will love to be a part of.

A tearoom isn't somewhere you'd normally expect to see a play, but as we stepped into Biddy's, on Lower Goat Lane in Norwich, it was clear that this was the perfect setting for A Christmas Carol. The independent tea house is a shrine to Victoriana, and as we enjoyed a cup of mulled apple juice and a delicious home-made mince pie before the show began, my seven-year-old son, Finley, was fascinated by the various pictures of people in Victorian clothes with animal heads.

The intimate upstairs space was ideal for this quirky and contemporary take on the Charles Dickens classic. All the parts are played by just two actors: Mark Finbow and Kiara Hawker - aided by a few teddy bear thespians taking the roles of the Cratchit family. It starts after the Christmas epiphany has taken place, with Ebenezer Scrooge and his clerk Bob Cratchit re-telling the story as a kind of "public service broadcast".

Sometimes they're playing themselves, sometimes other characters, all the while interacting with each other and the audience in their narrator roles. At one point, the reformed Scrooge even joins the audience, his top hat popped on someone else's head to represent his miserly former self.

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The play is aimed at families, so children are regularly invited to get involved, which added an improv element and got plenty of laughs, meaning no two shows will be the same.

There are no set changes, instead, props and small costume additions let the audience know what's going on. The use of an old leather suitcase was particularly clever, serving as Bob Cratchit's desk, Scrooge's pillow, the home of the Cratchits - inside the case was a whole scene, complete with windows, pictures, a table which the teddy bear family sat around on Christmas Day - plus Scrooge's gravestone during the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

There is a slightly scary moment when the ghost of Scrooge's deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, visits him to deliver his life-changing message, but on the whole there's a lot to make you smile and laugh - my cheeks hurt by the end, which is always a good sign.

If you're looking for an intimate festive family outing, this is just the ticket.

This is the second year that Biddy's has hosted A Christmas Carol, and Norwich-based theatre company The Keeper's Daughter is also touring it around the region. It will be performed at Biddy's until Sunday, December 22, with multiple performances on some of the dates. Tickets are £10 each (£7.50 for under-14s), which includes mulled apple juice and home-made mince pies. Bookings can be made at www.biddystearoom.com or www.ticketsource.co.uk/biddysxmascarol

A full list of venues and dates for the touring show can be found at www.keepersdaughter.com

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