There had only been one preview in front of an audience before they let the critics in last night, which was unfortunate for those on stage, as on occasion the nerves were clearly showing. But pshaw, what is a Christmas show without a bit of goodwill – the audience was clearly there for a good time, and there was no doubt that once this one beds in it will be even more fun.
One of the venue’s favourite touring companies, Peepolykus, return for this newly commissioned piece. Normally, the Playhouse tends to swerve away from deliberately seasonal productions and offers a less Christmassy alternative, but this year it has gone all out, and is jangling its sleigh bells from the rafters.
No Wise Men tells the story of self-obsessed businessman Jack, who we first meet stuck in Lisbon, lying to his pregnant wife as to his whereabouts as he flits away her savings on a deal. Stranded with no money to get home, a mysterious stranger pays for his ticket – on condition he delivers a letter when he gets back to London, an seemingly innocuous request that soon becomes too weird to ignore.
Although the cast are a solid ensemble with some relatively familiar faces, it is company co-artistic director Javier Marzan who not just steals the show but pretty much runs off with it. As Murray, the charming but otherworldly guide, his out of place deep Spanish accent, fantastic comic timing and mischievous sense of absurdity keep things rolling along beautifully.
Almost more than anything else worth a mention, No Wise Men is an impressive technical feat. Designer Jon Bauser has created a deceptive and spectactular set with as many twists, turns, and reveals as the tale itself, a wonderful journey of the imagination that just adds buckets of dimension to the tale. Although a rather busy production in parts, the layers of symbolism and detail to be noticed building up as the story comes to its climax are delightful.
A mixed bag of jokes, fun, time travel, good humour, love and care, tradition, a bit of cheese and even the odd song, it’s a complete feelgood Christmas package.