Donald Urquhart

Nöel Noir

An old two-storey stable in Central London
13 December 2003

Noël Noir was a twisted take on traditional Christmas theatre by artist Donald Urquhart, actor Chris Robson and performers from the Young Actors Company of Cardboard Citizens, the UK's only professional theatre working with homeless and ex-homeless people as participants, audiences and creators. The group developed Noël Noir from scratch over two weeks of intensive workshops for a single performance at the Horse Hospital.

The final version, written by Urquhart and directed by Robson, incorporated poems, songs and scenes devised by the group. It collaged kitchen sink melodrama, Dickensian costume romp and Hollywood musical and culminated in a darkly camp and surreal fantasy of satanic pantomime beasts haunted by the weird history of the Horse Hospital. Noël Noir was loosely inspired by the Austrian Christmas demon, the Krampus, documented in Cameron Jamie’s film Kranky Klaus, presented that year as part of Artangel’s collaboration with Jamie and The Melvins.

The Noël Noir cast were encouraged to assist in marketing the performance through distributing flyers and selling Christmas cards designed by Urquhart. The performance was free but money raised from card sales was given along with a DVD of the performance to each cast member.

Image: Black and white illustration of three presents wrapped in red bows under a Christmas tree bearing barbed wire. Illustration: Donald Urquhart


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Christmas is cancelled. What the Dickens…will happen to poor Nelly the Horse?

Nöel Noir: Script

The entire show of Nöel Noir was written in just two weeks two weeks by Urquhart through collaborative workshops with the young homeless and ex-homeless people who made up the cast.

Act One
Scene One – Scenes from La rue Noël Noir
Scene Two – Christmas is cancelled
Scene Three – What the Dickens…will happen to poor Nelly the Horse?

Interval – 15 minutes

Act Two
Scene One – Noël Deluxe
Scene Two – Do you see what I see?
Scene Three – Neige Noir
Scene Four – Beauty meets the Beast

The entire script can be read here.

About Donald Urquhart

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Donald Urquhart

Donald Urquhart is a performer, playwright, poet and artist who draws inspiration from queer culture and the club scene Leigh Bowery epitomised in the 1980s. As a visual artist he gained recognition in the 1990s through his drawings used as flyers, posters and wall decorations for 'The Beautiful Bend', an underground nightclub which the artist co-founded. The club ran from 1993 to 2002 and afterwards, in 2003, the artworks were exhibited at Magnani. Urquhart has since presented solo exhibitions at Jack Hanley, San Francisco; Maureen Paley, London; White Columns, New York and Herald St, London and has participated in group exhibitions at Dulwich Picture Gallery and ICA in London, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco and The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. 



Image: Black and white illustration of a glamorous Dietrich-esque blonde in the snow. Illustration: Donald Urquhart 

About Chris Robson

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Chris Robson

Chris Robson is an actor who has worked on stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Lyric Hammersmith, on film in Dog Soliders (2002) and in television productions such as Band of Brothers (2001). He also works as a presenter, fronting Eurotrash on German TV. He has organised workshops for young offenders and schoolchildren in understanding Shakespeare and in drama more generally and acted as a specialist exhibition guide for children, creating stories through word and performance, at the Hayward Gallery's exhibition 'Saved! - 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund' in 2003-4.


Image: Black and white illustration of a grimacing snowman perched on a tree branch as it snows. Illustration: Donald Urquhart

Young Actors Comapany of Cardboard Citizens

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Cardboard Citizens

Cardboard Citizens began in London in 1991 and has since pioneered the use of participatory arts and theatre working in particular with homeless people. Aiming to use participation in the arts to make a real difference in people’s lives, leading to tangible, measurable outcomes in everything from wellbeing to employment, and ultimately providing a real social return on the investment made, Cardboard Citizens has proven that theatre can be a uniquely powerful tool for engaging homeless people in a process of change, and for engaging general audiences to focus on the plight of those at the margins of our society.

The organisations Young Actors Company provided the cast for Nöel Noir, working closely with Donald and Chris to develop and write the show, composing poems and songs in the process that were performed at the Horse Hospital.

Image: Black and white illustration of a glamorous noir brunette in extravagent fur coat (left): Self portrait of the artist (above). Illustrations: Donald Urquhart

Production Credits

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Cast (in order of appearance)

Wayne Young
Marina Haase
Richard Brighton
Mark Durban
David Vickers
Julius Reubengowi
Mick Turner
Marcus Jeffrey
Sue Keen
Katriona Murphy

Production Credits

Written by Donald Urquhart
Director – Chris Robson
Art Director – Donald Urquhart
Sound and image production – Donald Urquhart
Makeup – Martin Thomas

The poem Anyway is written and performed by Wayne Young.
The song I like a good old Christmas is written and performed By David Vickers.


We gratefully acknowledge support of the Arts Council England, London, and the Company of Angels. We heartily thank Emily Doherty and Chris Atkinson at Cardboard Citizens; James Hollands and Roger Burton at the Horse Hospital; Mike and Ray at Camden Garden Centre (NW1) for the Christmas tree; Dean Bright, Sue Tilley, Tim Perkins, Sue Keen and Polly Brannan for props and costumes; KJ Ben and Harry Donnison for the sound mix; Sam Collins, Henry Huiting and the Siobhan Davies Dance Company for the lighting; and Simon O’Leary, the after-party DJ. We especially thank Martin, Duncan and all the staff at Central Station (37 Wharfdale Rd, King’s Cross) for giving us the rehearsal space and for their unlimited kindness and support.

Image: Black and white illustration featuring text about Nöel Noir in 2003. Illustration: Donald Urquhart


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Who made this possible?


Nöel Noir was made in collaboration with Cardboard Citizens.

Artangel is generously supported by the Arts Council England, and the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.