Christmas Review
 

 

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Jermyn Street Theatre presents

All I Want for Christmas

 

Jessica Martin and Rob Hughes in All I Want for Christmas

 

Written by Luke Bateman and Katie Darby

 

Directed by Anthony Biggs

 

Jermyn Street Theatre

 

November 23 - December 18, 2010

 

 

 


 

 

A review by Luke Davies for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Anthony wants a perfect Christmas, and is obsessed with It's A Wonderful Life. But he is a lonely soul whose dedication to his career has resulted in him lying to his parents about having a girlfriend. The prospect of the ideal family Christmas seems altogether too remote. His solution is to persuade an “actress” to pose as his girlfriend in order to satisfy his parents, who are of course, of humble northern origins. Predictably, the Serbian Irina gets carried away by her role.

The first fifty minutes of this seventy minute musical feel very much like a George Formby slapstick film, repeating the formula of a conventional northern existence overturned by the slightly surreal. All I Want for Christmas in this sense reminded me of other contemporary equivalents of this genre including The Royle Family, or the much better Early Doors. Whilst entertained, I had a few reservations: firstly that the characters were one dimensional and secondly, that the whole thing seemed contrived. And yet I was happy to go along with it. This was partly because I enjoyed the friction between form and content; that is, the way in which glitzy musical numbers dealt with the most everyday subjects. I enjoyed what I perceived to be the ironic banality of it all.

And then came what I suppose you might call the “twist”. Most frequently they depend on the mental instability of the protagonist (as is the case here) skewing our understanding of what has been happening. Anthony’s obsession with the cultural myth of Christmas – infused by his compulsive viewing of It's A Wonderful Life – demonstrates how his concept of reality has been displaced by false representations of what is real, which he chooses to manipulate back into reality by his actions. He is like Rupert Pupkin in Scorsese's brilliant The King of Comedy, turning his delusions about reality into reality in a way that can be seen as analogous to the manner with which different media have infiltrated and arguably replaced our lives. In terms of this particular musical, the resulting effect is that the flaws preceding the twist – the one dimensionality and artifice – suddenly seem to work as deliberate functions. They are symptomatic of how clichéd the shared visions of perfect family life are - of how four people can easily come to a consensus about what they are acting out, which is complete cultural artifice that in no way pertains to the truth. Of course it doesn’t really matter whether this is a knowing commentary on the postmodern condition or not. This is partly because social commentary or no social commentary, this remains an accomplished production.

At times, as in the song about Irina’s aspirations for wealth, Luke Bateman’s score perfectly accords with the mood (here, that of flighty ambition). Katy Derby’s lyrics are often entertaining, especially when spurious or exhaustive rhymes come into play, reminding one a little bit of Sondheim. Cherry Truluck’s stage design finds the appropriate mix of kitsch and dullness that pervades the average British living room.

As for the performances, they are robust all round. I especially enjoyed Rob Hughes as Anthony, who is both lovable and repellent. The actors actually sing in character, which all too often doesn’t happen in musicals, and it is also nice to have them accompanied by a piano rather than a tinny keyboard (and they are always somehow tinny). Anthony Biggs’ direction is commendable, especially when tackling physical comedy.  

This production is consistently entertaining. And its’ unexpected twist may cause you to doubt everything you have seen.

 

Rob Hughes and Andrew C Wadsworth in All I Want for Christmas

 

Box Office: 020 7287 2875

http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/

Jermyn Theatre
16b Jermyn Street, Greater London, SW1Y 6ST

£16 (£12)

8pm Tuesday, November 23 - Saturday, December 18, 2010

 

Song List
1. Wonderful Life
2. Very, Very Good
3. Every Christmas
4. Little Lady
5. Man and Boy
6. I've Dreamed of This
7. Like Words Never Could
8. Best Mum I Can Be
9. Cracking Christmas
10. Wouldn't it be Perfect
11. Just Like the Movies
12. God Bless Us, Everyone

 

 

 

 

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