Monday, 15 December 2014

Theatre review: This is Not a Christmas Play



As a lover of the festive season my one-track mind decided to focus on the word 'Christmas' in the play's title and ignore the 'not' preceding it, after all this was a production put on during the season of joy and the poster too emanates the festivity of December.

Luckily for me, while perhaps it wasn't the focus of the play, there were plenty of Yuletide references scattered throughout, from the use of religious names to the iconic 'Merry Christmas you filthy animals' phrase from Home Alone - a movie which in some ways could have inspired the story of This is Not a Christmas Play. After all, the comedy in both stems from a home robbery gone wrong and the underlying message is that of acceptance and love between family members, or friends in the case of the latter.

At the start of the play Tim (Jordan Kouame) is lounging on the sofa, too lazy even to open the door when the bell rings and his passive attitude continues for the duration of the 60-minute long performance - interrupted only by forces beyond his control. When house mate David (Matthew Leigh) comes home he is rightfully so annoyed by his friend's lethargic presence in the living room, but with the promise of his ex-girlfriend coming over for dinner - and a possible reconciliation down the line - rather than wasting all his time on Tim, David focuses on creating the perfect romantic dinner.

As both friends are distracted, they make an easy target for a duo of thieves, Mary (Alice Coles) and Clive (James Unsworth), who manage to gain access to the home in a variety of disguises. Clive's ludicrous characters were a particular humorous highlight, especially his big-mustached pizza delivery man and the very final of his outfits, a tiny pair of bright red hot pants; Merry Christmas indeed.

From the moment Mary and Clive make an appearance on stage and it becomes clear what their true intentions are, the play rapidly moves from one crazy scene to another, involving memorable moments such as a sword fight with a potato peeler. It sounds very silly, which it certainly is, but it's also genuinely funny and made the play an unexpected joy to watch as it was impossible to guess what would happen next.

Unfortunately my enjoyment of the evening was hampered considerably by the woefully misjudged location; the Top Secret Comedy Club. The 'theatre' was separated from the bar area by a flimsy curtain only, meaning that throughout the performance the audience could hear patrons loudly talking, employees doing the dishes and even some people playing ping pong. It was a severe distraction, going beyond the normal nuisances of rustling sweets packets and phone screen glares, and both the play and the actors on stage deserved a lot better.

Nonetheless, This is Not a Christmas Play managed to bring a smile to my face on more than one occasion. It wasn't the farce it tried to be at times, but the actors were excellent; there were plenty laugh-out-loud moments; and the heart-to-heart between friends David and Tim provided a sweet ending to the not very Christmassy but still seasonably heartwarming tale.




This is Not a Christmas Play is playing at the Top Secret Comedy Club in London until 4 January 2015. Buy tickets here.

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