New Diorama Theatre, London – until 23 December 2017
“Don’t be a prick at Christmas”... As many of us lurch from swapping random Secret Santa gifts at office parties to necking eggnog at pantos (just me?!) in preparation for the culinary bliss that is my dad’s Christmas dinner, it is easy to forget that the festive season is necessarily a happy one for everyone. And it is this feeling that Supporting Wall’s Thirty Christmases (in association with Arts at the Old Fire Station and the New Diorama) is concerned with exploring, through this bittersweetly wry and affecting comedy.
Written by Jonny Donahoe and directed by Alice Hamilton, it’s the story of siblings Jonny and Rachel who haven’t spent Christmas together in nearly ten years due to a big falling out. Through the efforts of their mutual friend Paddy, they’ve come together to delve into their shared past to try and work out their issues, for it turns out they’ve never actually had a conventional Christmas at all, due to a chaotic upbringing by their single-parent socialist firebrand of a father.
And with the help of songs by Donahoe and Paddy Gervers in lieu of expensive therapy sessions, the trio act out the succession of crazy Christmases they spent abusing the hospitality of others as their father didn’t even believe in owning a house. It’s a clever approach that allows them to skewer so many of the cosy nonsenses that have built up around this time of year – glib sentiments in charity singles, the outright creepiness endorsed in songs like ‘Santa Baby’ and ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’, the very nature of eggnog itself.
But it also makes us look at what so many of us take for granted. Parents who love us and who know they are doing, the security of having somewhere to call home, the ability to be able to say I’m depressed and I need help. Deep issues but treated here with a lightness of touch that keeps you emotionally invested in this ragtag grouping, affectionately daft with their new interpretations of family rituals. A neat counterpoint to the prevailing mood of most festive entertainment then, but no less fun for it.