Christmas at the New Vic Theatre is no longer punctuated by the opening of chocolate advent calendar, instead the festive season is marked by the return of Eric for Uncle Eric’s Christmas Party accompanied by his band of 60’s men (and women) for a fortnight long run at the round once again.
For those not familiar with “Uncle Eric”, David Graham, the brains behind the operation, creates a 2 hour long 60’s musical complete with live band made up entirely of the 8 person cast of the show, and a laugh a minute script which could easily have been lifted from a Carry on Film or an episode of Only Fools and Horses.
Uncle Eric has developed somewhat of a cult following within the city with many of the audience attendees having seen at least one of the shows before – I’ve seen two previously and the couple sat next to me told me that they’d been coming to watch the shows since the first opened back in 1999 as a touring show.
This Christmas you’re coridally invited to Uncle Eric’s Christmas Party… which isn’t actually a Christmas Party as such, more a party within a show where Mrs Harlot (pronounced Harlo, no T – its french you see) is throwing a party to celebrate her new wealth for the well to do folk in the area after winning big on the Pools, only her plans for a grand affair at the golf club is scuppered by members of the rugby club and the party is diverted through to her humble abode by her beer supping husband who has taken to propping up the bar in the golf club.
Not only has the venue been changed but Mrs Harlot’s guest list was also not what she had in mind. Instead of the head of the council and the other big hitters in town, Harlot’s grand soiree for twenty ends up being a party for two bungling burglars, Brigadeer, Gordon Bennett (complete with Christmas jumper) and you guessed it, her undesirable next door neighbour Eric. New singly and all on his lonesome following his long adoring (and suffering) wife Madge leaving him after she found him in bed with the cleaner, Eric is up to his usual ways and sees “Mrs H’s” Pool win as an opportunity to gain a slice of her new found wealth.
The play is punctuated throughout with more than 20 of the much loved songs of the 60’s and which captures the yesteryears to a T and the second half of the show is packed with audience participation.
It’s impossible not to be swept along with the infectious humour and good cheer that this show brings and the testament is in the faithfulness of the audience who dust off their tinsel and Christmas jumpers to catch up with Eric and co year after year. The uniqueness in this show is the quality of the music and the outstanding talent of the cast who slip so easily from their roles as part of the play into delivering up-on-your-feet applause worthy musical performances.
If you can sit through this show without cracking a smile, tapping your toe or singing along to one of the many well known songs including Dancing in the Street, Shout, Mustang Sally and a selection of Christmas favourites then you are well and truly the definition of Bah Humbug.
Uncle Eric’s Christmas Party runs at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-Under-Lyme until Saturday 13th December and you can buy tickets for the show online or at the box office.