If there is a perfect venue in London to indulge in some Christmas festivities, mince pies and mulled wine then Wilton’s Music Hall must be it.
The oldest surviving Grand music hall in the world, its dilapidated elegance is as charming as it is nostalgic, harking back to a time where a traditional Christmas included singing around a piano and cracking open the Dickens.
This is exactly what you can expect from Wilton’s Vintage Christmas. Led by the ghost of the Hall’s original owner John Wilton, his theatrical troupe has travelled back in time to treat the iPod generation to some good old-fashioned entertainment.
The cast of seven performs scenes from Dickens and Noël Coward, merrily sings songs and regales the audience with stories and monologues, all with a decidedly festive twist. The Night Before Christmas is competitively acted out by Amanda Claire Jones and Owen Pugh, Michael Fenton Stevens makes a believable Scrooge and Charlotte Newton John transforms into an eight-year-old girl to play Henry Mayhew’s tragic Water Cress Girl.
Joy is mixed with sadness, comedy with seriousness, as the cast works its way through over 25 pieces in three acts entitled Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come. In the first, the politics of Christmas are explored as people rebel against the frugality and conservative stance of the government to revel in the indulgence of the festive period. In Christmas Present, a Victorian burlesque act is performed before Dickens’s frightening and dark The Two Children is recounted. In the final act, the festive hits of Slade and East 17 are ignored to concentrate on slightly more sophisticated and less modern wordsmiths Dylan Thomas and T S Eliot.
Performing in richly coloured Victorian costumes, heavy with velvet and fur, the cast stands on an empty stage but for hampers which supply the minimalist production with a few props to help the audience visualise various scenes. A highlight is the creation of Christmas icon Tiny Tim from a pair of shoes and a mop.
Wilton’s Vintage Christmas does it best when it employs as few tricks as possible to get the audience into the festive spirit. But when there is hot toddy and mince pies at the bar, carols at end of the show and fairy lights providing most of the show’s lighting, what more do you need to create a vintage festive treat?