Southwark Playhouse, London – until 29 December 2018
It’s Christmas Eve and Gary (Douggie McMeekin) catches an elf (Dan Starkey) in his knock-off goods warehouse who claims to have fallen off Santa’s sleigh. His friend Simon (Michael Salami) thinks the elf is a just a burglar trying it on.
But with Gary’s ex-wife on the way around to pick up their son’s Christmas present and local prostitute Cherry (Unique Spencer) also after him for a promised Power Rangers toy for her own kid, the elf’s timing isn’t perfect.
This is adult Christmas fare, counter-programming to the Dr Seuss musical which is on next door but what constitutes grown up festive fun? Yes there is plenty of laugh-inducing silliness – there’s an elf after all – and there is also adult humour (and language) but beneath the frolicks writer Anthony Neilson also touches on the emotional and financial strains that Christmas puts on families.
But despite the laughter and hints of substance beneath the glitter and lights you’d expect from a Christmas show it is clunky at times and shows its age. It was written in 1995 when having the only female character as a prostitute was perhaps more easily overlooked. But more than that, the choice of profession for Cherry affords the opportunity to throw degrading dialogue around in the name of humour.
And while the play does touch on some of the less festive realities of Christmas, the implication is that Cherry has had to perform sexual acts in return for the toy from Gary which just doesn’t sit well with the more farcical elements involving the elf.
For me, it let down what was otherwise a fun, silly and at times interesting play and I’m giving it three stars.
See it at the Southwark Playhouse until December 29 and it is 60 minutes long.