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A Pissedmas Carol at Leicester Square Theatre

It’s a fairly straightforward setup – a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol (ooh, that’s never been done before). The key difference here is that one member of the cast – on press night, the actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge (I’ve no idea who it was as no programmes were supplied to the audience) had been given the simple task of drinking copious amounts of alcohol prior to the performance, such that anything could happen. I’d like to have said ‘anything could happen within reason’, and while the show’s host, ‘Charles Dickens’, tried to maintain some sort of order, the audience was – for the most part – of the opinion that drunken antics should take their natural course, however crude and coarse the resulting language.

A Pissedmas CarolIt is sometimes said that a person’s true character is revealed when they are under the influence – if someone becomes aggressive and confrontational when drunk, for instance, that’s indicative of who they really are, and likewise if someone is friendly and sociable. Here, it is for members of the audience to decide (or indeed choose not to) work out what kind of actor the man playing Scrooge is – though it could be argued that the question resolves itself very easily within the first minute, when he allows a member of staff annual leave. Not only can he have Christmas Day off, but he need not return to work until the second of January. But then Bob Cratchit requests Christmas Day off (as per the Dickens story) and is given short shrift, because Scrooge can’t have everyone off on leave at once. “You’re making me look like the bad guy,” Scrooge moans. (It was not an ‘aww’ moment. It was a laugh out loud moment.)

So as not to derail proceedings too much, a compromise is reached, in which an employment agency is to be contacted to cover Cratchit’s Christmas Day shift. We’ll leave aside that, agency fees for bank holiday working being what they are, Scrooge would never have agreed to such extortionate rates.

But holes that appear in the plotline are besides the point in a show whose remaining sober cast members adapt accordingly to whatever is happening. An unusual and bizarre ending (in the fullest sense of the word ‘ending’) occurs, as poor Cratchit is still out of favour, to say the least, after an apparently reformed Scrooge decides Christmas is worth celebrating after all.

Come out of that gloryhole,” Scrooge barks, prompting the Ghost of Christmas Past to enter stage left. If that wasn’t enough, Scrooge comes out as gay, prompting fiancée Belle to call off the wedding, and in a modified version of ‘Last Christmas’, says she knows what to do with her heart: “This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone straight”. Modified lyrics are the order of the evening, with controversial tunes such as ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’ reworded to suit the narrative.

A smattering of audience participation takes the form of deciding when a show stop should happen in order for Scrooge to be supplied with yet more alcohol. It’s as loud as We Will Rock You and as unsubtle as The Book of Mormon, but with familiar seasonal tunes like East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ and Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ thrown into proceedings, this really is a lively and unique alternative take on a beloved festive story. Almost every production is slightly different every night, very few have quite as many diversions and ad-libs as this one.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Combining cast members from Sh!t-faced Showtime and Sh!t-faced Shakespeare, A Pissedmas Carol is the all-singing, all boozing alternative Christmas knees-up we all so desperately needed after the last year and a half of Zoom calls, Tiger King and bloody banana bread. Miserly Scrooge and his classic coterie of employees, relatives and ghosts travel through time having the night of his life – but will Scrooge be merry before the end? Or will it be the spirits that have had too many spirits? With one genuinely drunk cast member in every performance, A Pissedmas Carol is the ultimate “You’ll never guess what happened to me last night” story – despite having heard it all these last 2 years!

Company information
Directed by Katy Baker
Written by Lewis Ironside, Issy Wroe Wright & James Murfitt
Musical Direction Charlotte Brooke
Produced by James Murfitt & Issy Wroe Wright
Photography by Rah Petherbridge
Original production concept by Dora Rubinstein, Issy Wroe Wright

Cast
Katy Baker, James Murfitt, John Mitton, Issy Wroe Wright, Hal Hillman, Will Seaward, Daniel Quirke, Charlotte Brooke, Nick House.

Sh!t-faced Showtime present:
A Pissedmas Carol
2019’s Christmas hit returns bigger and better to lift our spirits in 2021
Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Dec 2021 — 15 Jan 2022
https://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/

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