‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the warehouse,
A creature was stirring, it was a sad elf.
A man left his home with pyjamas to wear,
In hopes that some mind-bending drugs would be there.
This isn’t the most conventional telling of the traditional poem and neither is the Soho theatre’s festive offering, which, despite its seemingly innocent title, won’t be delighting children with its far from family friendly tale this Christmas.
With language as filthy as Father Christmas’ soiled scarlet suit after he’s finished frequenting the world’s sootiest chimneys, The Night Before Christmas is a festive treat for grown-ups that combines a silly storyline with adult humour and a sprinkling of seasonal songs.
On Christmas Eve, warehouse owner Gary is finishing up at work when he hears a commotion coming from the other side of the storeroom. It’s not a burglar or kids messing around as his initial thoughts would suggest, but an elf who claims to have fallen from Santa’s sleigh.
Calling upon his old friend Si, who sneaks out of his mother’s house under the impression that an illegal fix is waiting for him at the warehouse, Gary presents him instead with a rope-bound, green-suited Christmas helper whose authenticity and integrity is highly questionable.
Navin Chowdhry’s Gary, whose speech seems somewhat inspired by Catherine Tate’s Lauren, is the child among them, in full belief that the depressed detainee in front of them is indeed one of Santa’s hard-working employees. The entirely more sceptical Si, whose raging despair is brought to life in a compelling and comic performance by Coronation Street’s Craig Kelly, is the Scrooge to Gary’s Christmas spirit, branding the present-preparing prisoner a liar, a thief and a junkie.
Caught in the middle is Craig Gazey’s Elf, an endearing and likeable figure who is full of enchanting explanations about the magic of Christmas. The trouble is, if he’s away from Santa and his ‘special powder’ for too long, his health begins to deteriorate, forcing the sparring duo – along with mother of Gary’s child and local prostitute Cherry – to agree on his release before they have an expired elf on their hands.
Branding Jesus and Santa sanctimonious prudes and hurling insults at Tinkerbell, this is not the sweetest of festive treats, but with plenty of giggles and a touch of interpretative dance, this comic caper of a show is sure to be enjoyed by those willing to deviate from the more conventional merry-making musicals playing in London this Christmas.