When I heard edgy playwright Anthony Neilson was doing a Christmas show for the Royal Court – their first - I thought they may well have lost the plot; but I couldn’t resist taking my 10-year old godson and as much as I like traditional things like panto, this is such a breath of fresh air, and so Royal Court! Holly wants her real dad (who she’s never met) for Christmas but Santa keeps ignoring her request so she hatches a plot to ensure he takes her seriously and what unfolds is positively surreal. Her step-dad is a dog, her real dad inhabits a Teddy (or is he?), Santa’s son Bumblehole comes in through the skylight whilst Santa uses the traditional chimney. In the second half, Christmas keeps repeating itself until the spell is broken and all is revealed. Neilson’s trademark absurdity is all over it, but it’s as accessible to youngsters as it is fun for adults. Miriam Buether’s set and costumes establish the tone brilliantly and the performances are all excellent. You can believe Gabriel Quigley’s Mum is daft enough to marry a dog, Amanda Hadingue is a deliciously batty Gran, David Sterne combines grumpy and cool as Santa and it’s impossible not to love Tom Godwin’s hapless Bumblehole. Anchoring it all, though, is a superb Holly from Imogen Doel (her professional debut no less!) who captures the contradictions of teenage years so perfectly (something tells me Neilson may well have teenage kids, so good is this characterisation). Even Nick Powell’s songs sound surreal!
A wonderful alternative to panto that the 58-year old and the 10-year old both loved in equal measure.
- Gareth James
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