“Christmas is coming, the arts are getting cut/ If you’re not doing panto, the stage door’s shut” – so gamely began the premise at the heart of Twisted Christmas; that the players had snuck into the Studio out of desperation to find a stage, any stage to perform on, and the audience was complicit in their quite Shakespearean brand of mischief.
With a deliberately late start of 9pm, our five-strong cast went on to perform four short plays and a number of parody songs that, as promised, put a twist on familiar tales, bringing everything from Nirvana riffs to glue sniffing, girl-on-girl snogs and John Terry gags to the proceedings. It was the second production from writers collective The Alligator Club, following on from 100 Seel Street earlier in the month.
Laurence Wilson’s Christmas Cow kicked things off with probably the darkest story of all, a League of Gentlemen-style tale with shades of Animal Farm, in which no character seemed to have any particular redeeming feature and left the audience in little doubt this was going to be a rather different kind of festive evening out.
The Healer by Anne Irvine was a tale of family ties with a bleak parable at its heart; Kellie Smith’s Black Dog was a modern take on the story of Faust that examined a young would-be pop star’s desire for fame and its cost; and finally, The Perfume Girl by Andrew Ness was a poignant story inspired by those clean cut American-style Christmas romances – although without the happy ending.
There was a parallel (presumably intentional) to be drawn with the Playhouse’s rock ‘n’ roll panto, which could occasionally be heard coming through the walls, as the cast each played at least one instrument to accompany the songs and plays as required. Aisling Leyne, Joe Shipman, Mike Neary, Stephanie Greer and David Hewson gelled well as a ‘travelling band of misfits and wasters’, performing with charm and versatility.
The show had been devised, written and rehearsed in a very short time frame, which showed in places, but the imperfections could have been considered part of the Alligator Club’s ‘pop up’ ethos, trying something new along with the possibility of further building on the idea in future.