The Night Before Christmas at the Southwark Playhouse:
Are you already feeling jaded by all the marketing hype that Christmas brings? Had enough of Wham!? Seen A Christmas Carol umpteen times? Or just not ‘feeling it’? We may have found the perfect little pick-you-up play now on at the Southwark Playhouse.
Written by Anthony Neilson and first performed in 1995, The Night Before Christmas brings together Simon, Gary, Cherry, and an unexpected visitor on Christmas Eve. None of their lives are going to plan.
Gary is still in love with his ex-wife and has failed as a father. His friend Simon is feeling out of place at his mother’s house and unable to live up to her expectations of a good son. Cherry is a single mother, making ends meet by using her charms in the ‘oldest profession’ in order to buy her son the elusive ‘must have’ toy of the season. The ‘must have’ toy in question is a Power Ranger, and there is quite a tussle between Gary and Cherry as to whose son will be the lucky child. I remember this well from the 1990s at the time that the play was written. I was left a little unsure if the play was supposed to be set in 1995, since other references, such as to Simon Cowell, seemed more contemporary.
Gary has a secret, the 4th character in the play. We have to decide whether the intruder is either a burglar in a costume trying to rob Gary’s warehouse, or is he someone magical to do with Christmas. Is he becoming ill because he needs to get back on the sleigh, or is he addicted to the spirit of Christmas which comes in the form of a certain white powder?
The cast explores the pressures of Christmas and the difficulty of living up to expectations. A nod is given to the seasonal pantomime of Aladdin when each character is granted a wish by the intruder. When the first comes true, the remaining characters have some tough decisions to make. Should they wish for a million pounds for each of them, or should they wish for the world to be a better place? The debates are witty, and the timing excellent. Having made their final wish, they make their peace and embark on a night of debauchery and mayhem.
The venue is intimate with unallocated seating. No matter where you sit, you will get a great view of the action on the stage. The play is 65 minutes long, starting at 8 p.m. which gives you the chance to go out on the town to celebrate afterwards. Or not, depending on whether the magic white powder has also lifted your soul.
Everyone in the audience walked away smiling. Whether or not we have collectively re-found our enthusiasm for Christmas remains to be seen.
The Night Before Christmas runs until the 29th December.
To book call 020 7407 0234, or online at southwarkplayhouse.co.uk.
Tickets cost £20 or £16 for concessions.
Please see the website for the schedule as there are additional performances for Christmas week. The play is rather adult in theme and language, and although recommended as for ages 14+, I personally wouldn’t take a child of under 16.
Photo Credit: Darren Bell