The (rather eccentric) Lock In Christmas Carol at Exeter Phoenix

After a shoddy 2016, my Christmas cheer levels were running alarmingly low this week. So, as Storm Angus battered Exeter on Monday evening, I took to the Exeter Phoenix to catch the BBC award winning Christmas extravaganza aptly named ‘The Lock In Christmas Carol’. And I can tell you, it was a one of a kind show.

Arriving at the venue (in my best Christmas jumper, naturally), drenched and low in spirits, I had no idea what to expect. My most recent memory of the Phoenix was a lacklustre one: a fuzzy reminiscence of F*ck Me It’s Freshers, entwined with the faint stench of sick and grating repetitiveness of Dizzee Rascal bass drops. However, I was greeted by a hoard of Morris Dancers going whole-hog with bells, whistles and blackened outfits on the forecourt of the Phoenix; an unexpected bonus that certainly set the tone for the evening ahead. Entering the packed out theatre was a dream: tinsel covered the place, candy canes were rife and the live score of violinists and pianists were already treating us to the Christmas classics. I was almost sold.


Scooping 5 stars at the Edinburgh Fringe and copping 4 from The Independent, I had high hopes for the show. The director himself, Damian Barber of the folk group The Demon Barbers has claimed the Lock In is ‘half gig, half dance show and half panto’… I’ve never claimed to be a mathematician, but I can’t help but think these don’t quite add up – intrigued was the word.

The tale began on the set of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, a traditional pub, with, as can only be imagined, a burly Barnsley landlady called Jasmineezer Scrooge. Sadly, Jasmineezer’s cover was blown slightly by her beard and furry legs but sticking to the panto theme, this wasn’t too much of a red herring. As the country-style Christmas carols kicked in, and the ensemble started drinking (like sailors, I might add), we began to learn of Jasmineezer’s plans to turn her traditional pub into ‘Jazzles Nightclub’. Doomed from the off, for alienating locals and chucking old English ales for alco-pops, the cast took it upon themselves to rid Jasmineezer of this silly idea with the help of Christmas Past and Christmas Future, a quirky modern take on the fairy god-father.


The Lock in Christmas Carol wasn’t predictable like a typical panto. Of course, we did have to yell ‘He’s behind you!’ every few minutes, and audience participation came into play with a barmy game of on-stage musical chairs, but it didn’t feel formulaic like the usual butchering of Jack and Beanstalk or low rent Peter Pan piece. Dance was the focal point, in the form of Morris dancing, clog dancing, tap dancing, hip-hop and even a touch of sword-fighting. The on stage band were full of energy and folkish tones, putting the stale Dickens Christmas tale we’re all used to, to shame.

It was eccentric to say the least. I had to do a double take when a huge, helium filled Christmas pudding filled with prizes was launched into the audience and the questionable Dad jokes certainly did put me at some unease but overall it was a stonking, fresh and innovative Christmas show. It was lacking in traditional carols and some of the jigs did feel like they went on for many an hour but it was different and is perfect for all the family (providing they can go without ice cream in the interval, a knock for my insatiable festive sugar cravings).

The Lock In Christmas Carol easily snatches 4 stars from me. Merry Christmas!

-Char Srahan


The Lock in Christmas Carol Dance Show is touring until December 17th, look at the poster above for the other tour dates. Thank you to Alan Cole, Bryan Ledgard, Chris Edmonds & Sarah Photogirl for the photographs used and to Exeter Phoenix for the review tickets.

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