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All I Want for Christmas

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tone, a 30-something self confessed workaholic wants the perfect Christmas, which means mum, dad and a girlfriend all together being traditional, including gingerbread men and sitting watching It’s a Wonderful Life together. And this year he is determined to engineer it no matter what the consequences, but... he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so he hires Irina, an adaptable Serbian ‘escort’ to play the role; a role that she indulges in beyond his imaginings, turning this amusing little play from surreal absurdity to black comedy as we learn more about how and why Tony has created this special Christmas.

Whilst the characters are larger than life there is more than enough performance power to engage the audience in this fantasy and allows the shocks of the revelations to be both moving and disturbing. With elements of Brechtian alienation the characters use songs to tell us their real thoughts: they are cleverly written by Katy Darby using a range of styles, and all played live on a piano by her musical partner Luke Bateman, who, Svengali like, allows us to witness their motivations.

The intimate sitting room set with its false ceiling, cards on strings, paper chains and a Christmas tree provides just the right claustrophobic space for this fantasy to be played out in, with Jessica Martin and Andrew C Wadsworth enjoying their roles as parents. The direction of Anthony Biggs ensures that the pace adds to the tension, whilst the lighting allows for a number of other spaces beyond the living room to be imagined.

Erica Guyatt’s Irina is a fully rounded performance of passion, lust and megalomania whilst Rob Hughes gives us a disturbed, edgy & volatile Anthony, a frustrated adult who has not really grown up and learned how to deal with people, he wants things his way and woe betide anyone who does not play the game – for ultimately this is what it is, a game, and as the twists at the end reveal, a dangerous one.

Not the usual Christmas comedy but a fascinating fantasy that will have you laughing at the absurdities and cringing at the crudities.

- Dave Jordan


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