Review: A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale

We were invited to see A Christmas Carol by Waterside Arts in Sale. All opinions are our own.

Everyone loves a ghost story at Christmas, and for my money, there’s no better ghost story than A Christmas Carol. On Friday, we went along to Waterside Arts in Sale, Greater Manchester to spend an evening watching A Christmas Carol, performed by Guy Masterson.

A Christmas Carol has been made into many films. It’s such a part of Christmas, I can’t imagine a December without calling an especially grumpy relative Scrooge. It’s been made and performed a thousand times over, but this one man show, this monologue performance by Guy Masterson was a masterpiece in storytelling.

Like all Dickens’ stories, there is a cast of many, all performed by Guy Masterson. Each one with a voice or mannerism of their own. Each character you can imagine perfectly, all due to a flick of some hair or the imaginary swish of some petticoats.

Review: A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale

A Christmas Carol, performed by Guy Masterson

The stage is sparsely set with a chair and a coat on a hook. No other props are used, all are imagined by actor, Guy Masterson. Every sip from a cup, or closing of a door, you can see in your minds eye. You don’t need anything more, because Guy performs with such intensity, you are fully in the moment. You could hear a pin drop throughout. He jumps, runs, twirls and dances across the stage with a kind of energy I’ve long since been able to muster.

The show is 80 minutes long with an interval. It’s a masterclass in memory and Guy never stumbles. There’s the occasional and not at all hammy twinkly knowing eye to the audience, but the whole 80 minutes are an intense retelling of this classic Christmas tale. The ghosts, and the ghostly descriptions are vivid enough to cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. Tiny Tim is the sickly hero, played so beautifully you can imagine his pale face at the hearthside.

Each character is perfectly drawn by Guy. Everything is so minimal and sparce that the intensity of the performance really sings loudest. I felt like I’d not drawn breath for the whole 80 minutes.

It was a wonderful way to revisit one of my favourite Christmas tales. It was intense and left you with much to think about. It’s a reminder, as if anyone needed one, that life can be peppered with regrets, and it’s never too late to change your path and do better.

Alas, the show was at Waterside Arts for one night only, but Guy is on tour at various theatres throughout the UK in December. It’s not a colourful, jolly festive feast, but the right kind of ghost story for this time of year. It’s a real treat for Dickens fans. I loved it, and it’ll stay with me for a while.

If you’re local to Waterside Arts, Sale and would like to catch a Christmas show, then there are several different shows on their website with tickets available

If you enjoyed this, you might like to find out about other Christmas shows in and around Manchester this year.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Christmas is a time for traditions and one of ours is a trip to see a Christmas show or two. In Manchester we have lots of great theatres within easy reach of our home and they always offer an exciting selection of Christmas productions. There’s something for everyone. Love panto? Go and see Cinderella. Got little ones? Go and see The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin at Waterside Arts. Below are 10 family Christmas shows you can see in and around Manchester this Christmas…

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin, Waterside Arts, Sale, 30th November – 31st December

This is the story of an extraordinary explorer, a curious conjurer and pioneering problem-solver. You’ll find him pottering in his shed; planning his latest mission. He is learning to speak Penguin and hopes that you will too!

When he arrives at the Antarctic will its icy wilderness meet his excited expectations? Will the penguins’ reception be frosty, or will the colony welcome him with open wings?!

With a playful energy and a mix of puppetry, music and song, this show will be a delightful celebration of wild creativity and the joy of individuality. Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale, 2nd December

Olivier Award winner, Guy Masterson, veteran of many smash hit solo works such as Under Milk Wood, Animal Farm and Shylock, now presents Dickens’ classic festive fable. Famed for bringing multiple characters to vivid life, Masterson gives us Scrooge, Marley, the Fezziwigs, the Cratchits, Tiny Tim et al in an riveting, performance that will dazzle, enchant, and linger long in the memory. Guaranteed to get you into the Christmas Spirit – in many more ways than one!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Room on the Broom, The Lowry Theatre, 7th December – 8th January

Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ fun-filled adaptation of Room on the Broom, the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

The witch and her cat are travelling on their broomstick when they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog. But this broomstick’s not meant for five and – CRACK – it snaps in two… just as the hungry dragon appears! Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Cinderella, Stockport Plaza, 8th December 2022 – 8th January

Well pop on your sparkling glass slippers, jump into your coach and dash along to the Stockport Plaza to find out in the North Wests Premier Family Pantomime – Cinderella!

You’re invited to the Stockport Plaza Pantomime and they guarantee you’ll have a ball! Tickets for the North Wests premier family Pantomime Cinderella are on sale now!….

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Comedysportz Improvised (adults only) Panto, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 9th & 10th December

Heroes, villains, songs and silliness are guaranteed as the gang improvise a brand new pantomime using only your suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. With plenty of quick-witted gags and games, this loving pastiche of panto characters and tropes will be jam-packed with laughs and unexpected delights – oh yes it will! You don’t want to miss this alternative festive treat that the whole family can enjoy.

Every show is different as players craft loving pastiche of panto tropes and characters from audience suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. The performers don’t know their roles beforehand and might even get you involved in the action! This alternative pantomime is totally unscripted and completely unmissable – book your tickets for one of these family Christmas shows now!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, Opera House Manchester, 10th – 31st December

Comedy superstar Jason Manford will lead the cast in The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan in the role of Captain Hook, joined by returning Manchester panto favourite and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Ben Nickless as Smee and musical theatre stars Jessica Croll as Wendy, Samara Casteallo as Tinkerbell and Ross Carpenter as Peter Pan.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

The Adventures of Robin Hood – The 80’s Panto!, Contact Theatre, 10th – 31st December

The Contact Theatre in Manchester present a panto 80’s remix of Robin Hood. It’s a fresh twist on the traditional, packed with an upbeat, sing-along, 80’s panto playlist! eight-freestyle‘s Robin Hood is a story of courage, friendship and bad puns. There’ll be plenty of laughs along the way as Robin joins forces with Maid Marion to thwart the Sheriff of Nottingham’s evil plans to kidnap the young Babes. This is a show that has it all: adventure, action, laughs, music, magic and men with mullets!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 13th – 22nd January

The town of LeVache has a really BIG problem – a giant lives above them. What’s more, it’s the spring festival and there’s only one cook – the Widow Trot – with the assets to make all the buns sticky.

Find out if her son Jack finally proves himself? Will the independent Jill lead the way? Will Bogey and Flickit stop picking their noses? Or will everything be ruined by Fleshcreep, the slimiest villain of all? If only they had a beloved cow who can dance and save the day…

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Claus – The Musical, The Lowry Theatre, 14th December – 8th January

From the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comes the world premiere of Claus The Musical. Based on the beloved children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, this brand-new musical is as magical as Christmas itself.

With spellbinding songs from Andy Collyer, heart-warming storytelling, enchanting sets, and a whole load of festive fun, discover the story of Claus and how he became a man forever in our hearts, and on Christmas Eve, forever in our skies.

Abandoned as a baby in the magical Forest of Burzee, he is gifted to Necile, a wood nymph, who showers him with love and names him Claus.  With a helping hand from the mystical inhabitants of the forest – Fairies, Knooks and Ryls – she teaches him that kindness is the most important lesson of all, a gift that Claus eventually shares with us, as he embarks on a journey to bring the miracle of Christmas to the whole world.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Little Penguin’s First Christmas, The Lowry Theatre, 22nd December – 31st December

From the company that brought you the sell-out productions of Snowbabies! and Aleena’s Garden, Little Penguin’s First Christmas is an immersive, festive experience for babies aged 0-36 months and their grown-ups!

Filled with puppetry, original music and sensory delights to stimulate and captivate, this show is a perfect first theatrical experience for your little one.

Join Little Penguin in her winter wonderland as she discovers the magic of her first Christmas.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

If you found this list of family Christmas shows useful, you might also like to read my list of 11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year.

11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year

Christmas is a time for traditions and we love a festive day out, or a trip to a Christmas carol concert or two. In Manchester we have lots of great venues within easy reach of our home and they always offer an exciting and varied selection of Christmas musical shows. I’ve picked out 11 places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year.

11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year

Handel’s Messiah – Manchester Camerata, Gorton Monastery, December 4th, 3pm

Start your festivities with this most beloved of masterpieces. After the success of last year’s sold out show, Manchester Camerata is back with another stunning performance of Handel’s Messiah by candlelight in the epic setting of the Great Nave of the Monastery. Dating back to 1742, the power and the beauty of Handel’s rousing Hallelujah chorus will engulf the incredible natural acoustics of the space. The performance will transport audiences back in time away from modern distractions to allow for a moment of stillness, rejuvenation and joy before the holiday period. Book your tickets here.

Manchester & Districts Hospital’s Choir Christmas Carol Concert – Bridgewater Hall, December 5th & 6th 7.30pm

Choirs from around Manchester consisting of, in the main, medical and nursing staff who have given up their time to rehearse and sing in this Carol Concert. Ample opportunity, also, for audience participation in many old favourites to help herald the arrival of Christmas. As well as enjoying yourselves the principle purpose is to raise money for CLIC Sargent Young Lives vs Cancer. Book your tickets here.

11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year

Festive Happening – Manchester Camerata, Albert Hall, December 11th, 3pm

To close out the year, Manchester Camerata present what has become a Christmas tradition with their annual Christmas celebration with the AMC Gospel Choir. Start of your festivities with this incredibly uplifting and moving concert for the whole family. Book your tickets here.

Claus The Musical – The Lowry Theatre, December 14th – January 8th

From the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comes the world premiere of Claus The Musical. Based on the beloved children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, this brand-new musical is as magical as Christmas itself. Book your tickets here.

Midwinter Revels, Waterside Arts Centre, December 16th, 7.30pm

Following on from A Christmas Carol: In Concert and A Brief History of Christmas, GreenMatthews present their new festive show – Midwinter Revels. Spanning several centuries, this is a musical celebration of Yuletide past guaranteed to warm the cockles of the most Scrooge-like heart. Featuring Christmas carols, winter folk songs, toe-tapping tunes and a plethora of weird and wonderful instruments, the show is brought to life with their trademark wit and humour. Book your tickets here.

Syd Lawrence Big Band Christmas, Stoller Hall, December 17th, 7.30pm

Renowned for it’s exciting blend of high octane Big Band Swing and Classic Dance Music, the Orchestra’s repertoire ranges from the wartime million sellers of the legendary Glenn Miller through the era of the great Count Basie Orchestra to the hit songs of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Count Basie himself described the Syd Lawrence Orchestra as “So good it should be BANNED!”. Book your tickets here.

Away in a Manger, Stoller Hall, December 18th, 4pm

Kantos are back with their annual, sell-out, festive concert, featuring a ceremony of carols old and new. Performing both world premieres and well-known Christmas favourites to add your voice to, this cosy choral afternoon is the perfect way to kickstart your festivities. A fantastic option for classical music veterans and first-time concertgoers alike! Families and children welcome. Book your tickets here.

Carols at Manchester Cathedral, December 20th, 6.30pm

An evening of singing, fun, merriment and reflection, celebrating the incredible work of the people and community groups who work hard throughout the year to ensure ageing adults are kept happy, healthy and connected to loved ones. Book your tickets here.

11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year

The Muppet Christmas Carol – Bridgewater Hall, December 21st, 3.00pm

Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol will be presented live in concert this winter at The Bridgewater Hall, featuring its musical score performed live alongside the film. The Muppet Christmas Carol sees The Muppets perform the classic Charles Dickens holiday tale, with Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit, the put-upon clerk of stingy Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine).  Gonzo, as Dickens, narrates the story with the help of Rizzo the Rat. The film also features Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit, Gonzo as the narrator Charles Dickens, Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig, and Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim. Book your tickets here.

Swing into Christmas, Stoller Hall, December 22nd, 7.30pm

Celebrate the festive season in style with the vocalists and instrumentalists of Down for the Count Concert Orchestra, as they Swing Into Christmas. This is a Christmas celebration like no other, as Down for the Count recreate the music of Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and many more in a luscious 25-piece orchestral setting evoking the sounds of the great Capitol Studios recordings. Book your tickets here.

The Nutcracker – Bridgewater Hall, January 2nd & 3rd, 5.30pm

The most famous fantasy ballets for all the family begins as night falls on Christmas Eve.  As snowflakes fall outside, the warm glow of the open fire sends flickering shadows across the boughs of the Christmas tree and all the presents beneath. When midnight strikes we are swept away to a fairy-tale world where nothing is quite as it seems, toy dolls spring to life, the Mouse-king and his mouse-army battle with the Nutcracker Prince and we travel through the Land of Snow to an enchanted place where the magic really begins… Book your tickets here.

There are lots of places to enjoy Christmas music in Manchester this year. If I’ve missed any, please comment below and I will add them. Merry Christmas!

11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year

Review: The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

We were invited to the opening night of The Not So Ugly Sisters in exchange for this review.

The Not So Ugly Sisters is the Cinderella story told from the point of view of her (not so ugly, but actually quite pretty) sisters. It’s fun, it’s glitzy, the songs are catchy; and aside from it being a really great show, it’s also very thought provoking.

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

Set in their hair salon, sisters Dolly (Daisy Ann Fletcher) and Barb (Lucy Rafton) are dealing with the fallout from the forthcoming royal wedding between their sister, Cindy and her future husband, Prince Smarming. The sisters talk, sing and dance their way through childhood tales, recounting the usual fallings out between sisters and best friends. They talk about how they all pulled together to get though the death of their mother and the time they all met the Prince at the ball and how that all went down.

There are broken hearts and broken friendships to mend along the way. This traditional Cinderella story is flipped to show the other side of the tale and it is really interesting. It really makes you think about trolling, cancel culture and how stories can be manipulated to make people out to be different to how they really are. Of course the sisters are not ugly, nor were they mean to Cinderella, and there is a happy ending, so happy that I might have shed a tear or two.

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

Aimed at families with children aged 5+, this 55 minute long show is long enough to tell the story; but not too long that little ones would lose interest. My 11 year old was completely rapt from start to finish. The story moves at a good pace, with upbeat and catchy songs making a regular appearance. The finale is a Christmas song we all know and love, and we are all encouraged to sing along in our seats.

With it being a family show, younger family members are encouraged to wear pyjamas to the early evening performances; with pre-bookable packs of milk and cookies also available (there’s a well-stocked bar for older family members who aren’t driving).

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts

It has been so long since we darkened the door of a theatre; I’d almost forgotten how magical it could be. It was a fabulous way to kick off our festive season. There’s nothing quite like a Christmas show to get you in the mood for mince pies and festive magic. If you’ve not yet booked tickets to see a Christmas show; then tickets to see The Not So Ugly Sisters should be top of your Christmas list!

The Not So Ugly Sisters at Waterside Arts runs from 24th November 2021 to Saturday 1st January 2022. 

There are also some BSL and Relaxed Performances which might be useful to know about. 

  • Saturday 11th Dec at 11:00- BSL interpreted and relaxed performance.
  • Saturday 18th Dec at 11:00- BSL interpreted performance.