Last week I reviewed Seige theatre's version of A Christmas Carol, this week I went with the whole family to watch Emma Boor and Hannah Rhodes' Supermarket Scrooge. What a difference! While Seige's version had a foggy Victorian feel, Supermarket Scrooge placed us firmly in familiar territory – the bright lights of the supermarket aisle.
Emma and Hannah welcomed us into the theatre with sticky price labels for every child ("How much do you cost?"). The opening song set the tone of the performance with lyrics such as "We can sell you the perfect Christmas" and "the adverts will get you in the end". It's silly, light-hearted, and full of fun. However, Supermarket Scrooge also gently points out a pertinent Christmas message: people are more important than profits.
And at times this message is unnervingly hard-hitting. The second visitor to Wilhelmina Scrooge – a talking Christmas present – warns Wilhelmina she is going to become "sad, lonely and full of hatred." And in the unsettling climax of the play she is ordered to "Get in the freezer!" by a fierce looking fish-finger. The high drama was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. At this point my four-year-old son turned to his friend and said "I would tear that guy to pieces, if I was scared. But I'm not scared." Leaving me in no doubt that his empathy was now on the side of the chastised Wilhelmina.
The darker elements of the play are carefully offset by much jollity and singing. At the beginning we are taught the actions of the "Brussels Sprout Song" which we have to enact every time the vegetable is mentioned. My four year old was a bit shy about this, but my seven year old threw herself into it with gusto. Fans of Emma Boor will not be disappointed - her unique signature puppets populate the show giving us the impression that there is a cast of many. Tiny Ted – the chirpy carrier bag dog (who was found blowing about in the street), and the sinisterly silent headless frozen turkey were two of my favourites.
Although some of the finer details of the plot probably went over the head of my four year old, this play has much to offer across the age range. Both Hannah and Emma give great performances, carefully balancing out the intensity versus the light-heartedness. Perhaps my favourite scene was the demonstration of the brand new self-service machine, which patiently and relentlessly explains, "there is an unidentified object in the bagging area."
Although this is primarily a kids show, with plenty of silliness and panto glory, it has a lot to offer grown-ups too. The final song "Every day is a gift" really did leave me feeling moved. It's a simple message, but just as true today as it was 170 years ago: love is more important than money.
A really great show for the whole family!
Morrigan, age 7:
"It was along the lines of A Christmas Carol, but instead of the ghost saying Scrooge would die, she had to get in the freezer. I think the freezer bit was very scary. I mean not really scary, but it was kind of… you know."
Alex, age 35:
"I'm not sure if I've ever found anything as funny and creepy at the same time (as that freezer scene)."