“The strangest Christmas party this side of Alpha Centauri” is how the Suitcase Ensemble describe their new festive show. “An outlandish band of voyagers long for the perfect world, the Yuletide Paradise. Join their quest at an immersive feast of story, song and tripping the light fantastic.”
Well, that sounds like an exciting enough invitation for MADEUP. Taking inspiration from William Morris’s epic poem The Earthly Paradise, the Suitcase Ensemble – the theatre collective based at Metal @ Edge Hill Station – have created what they call ‘a distinctive Christmas experience’ incorporating theatre, music, storytelling and partying, all held together with an outlandish science-fiction twist.
The audience is invited to join a gathering of voyagers from six worlds as they share stories, create decorations and dance the Intergalactic Yuletide Ceili. “It promises to be a completely bizarre but thoroughly entertaining evening with plenty of The Suitcase Ensemble’s trademark surreal humour and striking visuals,” they say.
After opening at The Brindley Arts Centre at the end of this month, the show will come to Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle with two performances at 24 Kitchen Street on December 3 and 4.
Suitcase Ensemble core artist Andrew Gledhill said: “Yuletide Paradise combines two of our favourite things: Christmas and science fiction. We can’t help but be taken with the Yuletide Paradise the characters in the show are searching for – a non-commercial, collective, utopian Christmas – and because this all takes place in a distant galaxy, we can subvert the usual Christmas clichés, including the idea that it’s just for kids. So some of it is pretty dark – but the show is also about coming together, with each performance celebrating the unique audience who have gathered with us.”
Yuletide Paradise has been created by six artists comprising performers Tessa Buddle, Beth Pinches and Maria Malone, musical director and composer Andrew Gledhill, and designers Alex Herring and Jonathan Fretwell. Additional artistic support comes from Gareth Brierley, Bernadette Russell and Jessica Worrall from The People Show – the UK’s longest running devising company, who in fact inspired The Suitcase Ensemble to set up back in 2008.
Yuletide Paradise is the company’s first touring production in three years, and follows their previous hits Clunk (2010) and Look at us Now (2011, reviewed on this site here). More recently The Suitcase Ensemble has developed a reputation for ambitious site-specific productions, finding success with 2013’s Castlefields of Dreams – the historical fantasy performed in Halton Castle, and this August’s carnival event Spring Heeled Jack in Everton Park. The interactive, immersive sensibilities developed through this work have found their way into Yuletide Paradise, making it an exciting departure from previous company performances which have been more traditionally staged.
Yuletide Paradise is supported by Arts Council England and draws The Suitcase Ensemble’s packed 2014 programme to a close. “It’s been a busy year,” says core artist Tessa Buddle. “So Yuletide Paradise is about embracing the festive season as a time of celebration rather than stress – a chance to mark the year end with laughter, dance, fellowship and hope.”
Tickets for Yuletide Paradise are available through the Unity Theatre’s box office (although the show doesn’t take place there, but at new venue 24 Kitchen Street), on 0844 873 2888 or unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk.