The Irish Times – 19/12/2013
’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS Pavilion Theatre, Dublin * * * *
Always approaching, ever receding, Christmas is a checklist of expectations based on a cluster of memories. In short, it’s tradition. The particular charm of Branar’s exquisite show for children is how it harkens back to rosy views of home and heritage while wittily moving things forward.
Bhaile Breac has recently been electrified, and an easily flustered múinteoir, Mrs Carson (Helen Gregg), plans to string Christmas lights through the town, making it the envy of the county. Two things are almost obscured by this progressive surge: the time-honoured sharing of Christmas candles, meekly guarded by sweet “Momo an bhaile” (Maura Greaney Daly), and the fact that everyone speaks partly in Irish.
It’s as rare to find a show that is as naturally, unfussily bilingual as one that matches homespun fun with spry intelligence. Director Marc Mac Lochlainn’s production is both: a delicate weave of old-fashioned storytelling and inclusive new approaches, where Olan Wrynn’s sparing set of crates and boxes will glow into a miniature town, five nimble performers adopt and dispense characters, or a Dalmatian puppy pounces to life through deft puppetry.
Between comical character sketches and the lulling music, there’s a still more heartening reconciliation than that between electricity and candlelight.
Well-crafted but light on its feet, glowing with nostalgia yet generously expanding its traditions, the show owes surprisingly little to the titular poem, wishing Nollaig Shona to all. An Taidhbhearc, Galway December 20 Peter Crawley