Get Santa! Royal Court Theatre, London
Wednesday 15 December 2010
This reviewer once wrote that "Anthony Neilson and fun-for-all-the-family Christmas cheer go together about as amicably as the Val Doonican Songbook and Irvine Welsh." Just consider Relocated, his last venture at the Royal Court, which chillingly raised the spectre of Josef Fritzl and his cellar of horrors. So Neilson is somewhat incongruous casting as author of this venue's first ever Yuletide show for children. In the event, he's turned up trumps with Get Santa!, a hilariously inventive and unconventional extravaganza which, with its time-warp antics, suggests that it's a mercy Christmas comes but once a year.
Its heroine is Holly, a lippy, determined ten-year-old, beautifully portrayed in all her stroppiness and vulnerability by Imogen Doel. The one thing on her Christmas wish list is to find her real father, a desire that's all the more understandable given that her stepdad is a dog. Each year Santa has failed to deliver, so this time she plots to trap him when he comes down the chimney. She winds up instead with his son and helper, Tom Godwin's farcically hapless elf, Bumblehole. When a bungled spell brings to life Holly's Teddy, the audience melts at the adorable spectacle (the excellent puppetry is by Chand Martinez). But talking Teddy is not entirely to be trusted and to keep him alive Holly is repeatedly forced to pluck magic hairs from Santa's beard to reverse time and create a perpetually recurring Christmas.
The Groundhog Day horror of the situation (giving and receiving pile-ups of identical gifts in an ever blearier atmosphere of desperate merriment) is a hoot in the author's vivid, stylish production which is itself designed like a huge, lurid pink present. Nick Powell's musical score includes mock-heroically cheery jingles that parody the clichés of Christmas (sung by a chorus in ludicrously festive knitwear) and witty, gently moralising numbers which address the underlying issues, such as the need to respect human oddity and not think oneself the centre of the universe. The show is full of eccentric delights, from David Sterne's grouchy Santa (who, on his reluctant way to Scotland, inquires "Is the body armour packed?") to Robert Stocks's endearingly canine step dad who dresses the Christmas tree with strips of meat because he can't eat chocolate. Warmly recommended.
To 15 January (020 7565 5000)
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds