Imagine a town where the Christmas lights really matter. In Lumenville, they are the biggest event of the year and everyone in Lumenville knows that if the Christmas lights aren’t on, Santa won’t come. That’s the premise of this delightful, life-enhancing show from Oldham Theatre Workshop at Oldham Central Library.
It’s never happened before, but this year Lumenville’s lights won’t come on despite the best efforts of Roob, the man from the council Christmas committee, played anxiously by Perry Moor. Bureaucracy has failed and it’s left to the eponymous 10-year-old Twinkle and her BFF Pip, played utterly believably by grown-ups Ivy Chiu and Jabez Sykes, to uncover a dastardly plot and get the lights on.
The dastardly plot might or might not be (no spoilers here) the brainchild of the chair of the Christmas committee, Mrs Primly, played as a victim of nominative determinism by Victoria Brazier. Twinkle and Pip are aided in their quest by Scootle, a magical light elf played extremely seriously by Madeleine Edmondson, and her three equally serious assistants, Tia Tupman, Lola Harris and Lucy Turvin.
It’s not an easy quest. Doubts are cast on the reputation of the town’s own light bulb maker, Apricus L. Brumalis*, but our intrepid investigators find him innocent before discovering the solution in, of all places, Twinkle’s attic. Some nail-biting minutes later, the lights come on and everyone, well, nearly everyone, cheers loudly and lives happily until next Christmas.
Of course, that’s not it at all really. Writer Sarah Nelson is a craftswoman whose plays have a journey for every character. Twinkle’s journey is the key here and the message is ‘be who you want to be, find what you want to do and do it’. Even Mrs Primly has a journey, although it’s more for us than for her. She had a miserable childhood with a dominating father who didn’t believe in Christmas.
There are lots of catchy original songs and through-composed music by James Atherton, which works perfectly for a young audience. I’ve seen a couple of ‘family shows’ this Christmas that weren’t suitable for anyone under 12, but Nelson and Atherton know exactly what they’re doing.
The cast know what they’re doing, too. They’re all professionals with track records in rep, TV and radio and I’ve seen them all in Christmas shows before, either here or at the New Vic in Stoke-on-Trent, where Atherton also does the music.
I don’t normally bother to point out how skilled everyone is, so why am I doing it here? Because in any other context Nelson and Atherton would be well known and properly funded. This production, like the others I have seen here in previous years by the Workshop, is produced on a shoestring. It wouldn’t take much for one of the central Manchester venues to pick up this excellent show and give it a wider audience during Christmas next year.
This is a lovely family show which will please everyone from four to 104. You have until December 30, 2021. The show lasts an hour and a half, including the interval, which means you can park in Sainsbury’s next door within their two-hour limit.
By Chris Wallis, Theatre Editor
* Writer Sarah Nelson has had some fun with dog latin in this script. Apricus L. Brumalis is apricus lux brumalis, ‘sunny winter light’, another case of nominative determinism at work.
Twinkle and the Mechanical Light Machine, by Oldham Theatre Workshop, is at Oldham Central Library until December 30, 2021. For more information, or to book tickets, click here.