TWO definitions of a humbug:
1 - Scrooge-like Christmas-shunner; eschewer of seasonal sentimentality and the prescribed trappings of Christmas, such as glühwein, novelty jumpers and the Manchester Christmas markets.
2 - Boiled sweet; formerly known as a ‘toffee’, immediately evocative of youth and of sweeter, simpler, happier times; the madeleine of working-class Northern England.
Refreshingly, this is about as far from a gritty, realist Northern drama you can get.
Winsome, charming and warm-hearted, That Day We Sang – to be aired as part of the BBC’s festive television schedule - is perfect Christmas TV. A humbug for the humbugs, it is wistful and sweet and will mollify even the most recalcitrant of festive naysayers.
It was originally written for the Manchester International Festival in 2011 and subsequently performed at the Royal Exchange last winter to great critical acclaim. Now millions across the UK will get to see the televised adaptation of what Victoria Wood, the writer of the show, describes as “a love letter to the North”.
The musical drama is a colourful nostalgic trip flitting between Manchester in 1929 and 1969. The theatricality of the original stage production is flamboyantly exaggerated on screen with pastel colours, polyester and a meticulous attention to detail in the mise-en-scène. Characteristic period and cultural references are present in every frame, such as oversized prawn cocktail ‘props’, bright Formica furniture and double-decker trolleybuses advertising Bovril, to recall but a few.
The Free Trade Hall now Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel
The premise is thus: In 1929, the Manchester School Children's Choir, made up of local boys and girls, recorded Purcell’s Nymphs and Shepherds at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. Victoria Wood’s drama fictionalises both the children’s excitement preparing for the recording in 1929 and a reunion organised in 1969 for the former choir members. It is at this reunion that Tubby (Michael Ball) and Enid (Imelda Staunton) meet and a love story burgeons over flavoured yoghurt.
Having seen the production both in the theatre and on the screen, there are many advantages that come from the transformation, not least the beautiful hues of natural wintery sunshine can’t be realistically evoked in a theatre space. It was filmed in the Northwest in January and February this year.
Refreshingly, this is about as far from a gritty, realist Northern drama you can get. It is stylised, sunny and slapstick. The characters regularly burst into choreographed song and dance. There are even clowns.
That Day We Sang is due for transmission on BBC Two over Christmas.
Fans at the Premiere
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