The Night Before Christmas at Southwark Playhouse
Although traditionally a happy time of year during which goodwill prevails – a cheerful respite from life’s travails for even the most cynical among us – the Christmas festivities have a dark side. Many associate the Yuletide season with stress and pressure, and for some it can be perceived as coercive in its commercialisation, promoting an artificial picture of social bliss.
With an all-star cast, Anthony Neilson’s edgy comedy The Night Before Christmas, directed by Alex Sutton, irreverently pokes fun at the mandatory merriment. A cheeky, crazy romp that is partly a tongue-in-cheek satire of classic Christmas movies and partly an off-colour rebellion against the fanfare of holiday spirit, the play is absurd, bonkers and debauched, yet also upbeat in a Saturday Night Live kind of way.
Two guys with an attitude, a drug-addicted elf and a prostitute are an unlikely group to debate the merits of the season. Gary (Douggie McMeekin) is a factory worker with a bah-humbug outlook this year. Things aren’t going so well for him and he’s at war with his ex-wife. When a pixie named Elf (Dan Starkey) breaks into his warehouse on Christmas Eve, Gary catches him and summons his equally disgruntled pal Simon from his slumber (Michael Salami) to come over and check the little fellow out. Elf tells stories about Santa Claus, whom he claims is his boss. Threatening to call the police, Gary is sceptical about the intruder’s tale, and so the latter tries to save himself by promising each of the friends the fulfilment of three wishes. The arrival of single mother and hooker Cherry (Unique Spencer) – who has come to collect the gifts she was promised as payment for sex – rounds out the rollicking mayhem.
With a congenial set and good direction, the piece is entertaining and the actors are effective, especially McMeekin and Starkey, who work particularly well together. An adult farce rather than a children’s show, The Night Before Christmas is dynamic and hilarious, and the bawdy perspective offers a refreshing alternative to conventional holiday fare.
Photo: Darren Bell
The Night Before Christmas is at Southwark Playhouse from 28th November until 29th December 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.