For many people, theatre and carol concerts are an intrinsic part of Christmas, but much like many parts of 2020, these traditions have been unable to go ahead in the traditional format. But tonight Donmar Warehouse provided a little bit of Christmas joy full of some familiar theatre faces in their Looking a lot like Christmas concert.
Looking a lot like Christmas was filmed at the Actors Church in Covent Garden and premiered as a live event on YouTube. The stage was decorated with snowflakes made of all the unsold tickets the Donmar Warehouse had from this year, serving as a constant and stark reminder of the devastating effects that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on theatres across the country.
The concert opened with a dance from Jordan Douglas to Carol of the Bells, and although a slightly untraditional opening to a Christmas concert, it set the tone marvellously. The rest of the show was made up of songs, monologues, poetry and even the odd magic trick! The concert was hosted by actress Susan Wokoma whose charisma was perfect for hosting this online event.
One of the fears with online performance events is that they cannot convey the same levels of emotion that audiences experience when sitting in the theatre. But Rosalie Craig’s rendition of Love Is Christmas by Sara Bareilles proved that this does not have to be the case. Craig’s voice is so powerful that she can instil goosebumps even when you are not in the same room, and her version of this modern Christmas song was emotive and beautiful.
One of the stand-out moments of the night was Michael Sheen’s reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, written by Dylan Thomas. Sheen is a naturally charming actor and this piece of prose felt so full of nostalgia and Christmas spirit, the perfect piece for a heart-warming Christmas concert. Sheen was the only performer not to be in the Actors Church and his pre-recorderd video felt very familiar to the video calls we have all grown accustomed to in 2020.
Minnie Driver joined the cast of the evening performing a version of Joni Mitchell’s River which was a little more upbeat than the original arrangements. This added a level of festivity and cheer that is not normally present in the song and added cheer is definitely something that 2020 could benefit from.
Some well-loved theatre names who joined the cast were Giles Terera and Imelda Staunton, who performed The Christmas Song and In the Bleak Midwinter respectively. Both these performers ooze talent and made their performances at the concert seem completely effortless. Staunton was the final performer of the evening and made the ideal ending to the night.
During the course of the concert, the live stream reached a total of 1.7K viewers from around the world, with people in the comments sending greetings from Spain and Switzerland. In a year full of social distancing and a reduced number of events, it is difficult to think about that many people watching the same thing and that the same time, but it proves that now more than ever people still want and are actively seeking out live performances. This year has been difficult for theatres, but there are people longing to return when they allowed to re-open.
Looking a lot like Christmas concert is available to watch for free on the Donmar Warehouse’s YouTube channel from now until 5th January.