We saw the
Royal Court’s (first) Christmas show on Monday. God it’s good. I’m
guessing that the Court has realised that Christmas shows are fairly
lucrative and worth getting in on but also knew that it has a reputation
for serious new work with a socially critical edge and it’s hard to
square the two. This is an excellent way of squaring the circle.
It’s a show by Anthony Neilson and my
mate Nick Powell. The story is about a girl, Holly, who hates Christmas
because all she ever wanted was to meet her real father and Santa never
gives her that present. She devises a plan to get Santa. Instead she
traps an elf who accidentally makes her teddy bear come alive and they
inadvertently make it Christmas every day. Eventually, she finds her
father and comes to love Christmas.
Anthony Neilson is a brilliant, obvious choice. He wrote The Night Before Christmas and God in Ruins, both Christmas-themed plays. More important maybe, plays like The Wonderful World of Dissocia have a raucous, Carrolian popular energy that seems just right for sending kids into hysterics in all the right ways.
This show had the Court’s subversiveness
- one of the first songs is a plea for sexual libertarianism, really,
and there are motifs of bestiality, consumerism and dysfunctional
families that are very familiar. The language is actually very tame
though there’s a series of near-misses that drives the adults into
Nick’s music is wonderful, the script sings along, and the cast, especially newcomer Imogen Doel as young Holly, are to die for.