‘Baby, it’s cold outside.’ Sang Dean Martin. But in the song the winter chill and falling snowflakes were all part of the Christmas magic. That’s not the same for everyone. For many there’s no delight in snow, no opportunity to warm up with mulled wine, no open fire around which to sing, and no family Christmas. The feeling of loneliness is heightened, with calls to organisations such as the Samaritans increasing; this year over 120,000 children will have no roof under which to spend Christmas eve, nevermind a bed to hang a stocking on; more than a third go into debt to afford the increased financial pressures; and even in the apparently happiest of families, the first argument starts at 10.13am.
Bristol’s Creative Youth Network and their seasonal performance of Turkey is a production formed through collaborative workshops with young people participating in their schemes and arts initiatives, all based on true stories . Written by Alice Nicholas, directed by Nick Young and produced by Emily Bull, although very much created by the cast and their peers, this immersive and real life performance at The Station is both tender and gripping – just like the rest of the festive season.
‘T’was the night before Christmas’ begins our narrator Theo (Jake Bartlett), in his dazzling glitzy jacket – and as we hear from the characters it can be everything from borderline hell or most wonderful time of the year.’ Homelessness, poverty, loneliness, broken relationships and illness can all take their toll – and the feeling of being alone and failing is only exacerbated by what looks like the perfect Christmas that everyone else all around is having. . Often through no fault of their own individuals find themselves unable to produce that perfect day, ‘just like everyone else.’ That’s what Abigail (Cirwen Farrant) wants for her and her unborn baby Biscuit, and she speaks tenderly to her child about the eternal hope of the new year and what it will bring. ‘I should be happy and full of Christmas cheer’ our characters feel – that should weighing them down.
Like most ‘perfect’ things in life, the depiction tends to be a somewhat filtered version of events. Whether it’s the Black Friday consumerist fight, one-upmanship pursuit, the hypocrisy of ‘pretending to believe in Jesus once a year then go back to being c*nts’, the demands of bratty children, finding out Father Christmas isn’t real, or just the fact that domestic bliss skates on thin smiles that crack by something as simple as not buying ribbon. In the pursuit of the ideal Christmas the endless ‘rush, anxiety, panic and failure’ ring more loudly than any peace and goodwill.
Or so it seems. Because for everyone who walks straight past the homeless, there’s those like Hazel’s (Emily Gilbert) family who invite Alfie (Matt Fleming) and his ‘invisibility cloak’ in for dinner. Or Abigail and her sister Jas hand crafting presents. Or the mother supported through her breakdown.
And people like Creative Youth Network and the participants of Turkey. As well providing a brilliant evening’s entertainment and making the whole audience think, they invited us all to share a meal with them, all donated by FareShare and would have gone to landfill otherwise. Sharing, laughing, and feeling part of a community – that’s what Christmas is about, and that’s what Creative Youth dished up with their Turkey.