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Review of Thirty Christmases at the New Diorama Theatre

30 CHRISTMASES - Production image by Josh Tomalin
30 CHRISTMASES – Production image by Josh Tomalin

Anyone familiar with Jonny & The Baptists will know that Jonny Donahoe (Every Brilliant Thing) and Paddy Gervens (Podshambles) are supremely talented, hilariously subversive and brilliantly entertaining. Together with comedian Rachel Parris (Austentatious, The IT Crowd) they’ve created a Christmas show that’s both funny and moving but also provides a welcome antidote to sentimentality.

The story’s simple enough, Jonny and Rachel are brother and sister and following a falling out they’ve haven’t spent Christmas together in years. Paddy’s there because ‘he’s always there.’ As the narrative jumps back and forth we discover more about Jonny and Rachel’s fervently socialist upbringing and their unconventional parents. It’s a touching story that reminds us how for many people Christmas is a reminder of all that they don’t have, and the people who are absent.

But it’s brilliant fun too! There are festive songs about reindeer sex and donating to Africa, there’s live egg-nog cooking, party hats, and a very troubling cocktail. The story may have dark edges but there’s a lot of warmth at the heart of this show. Alice Hamilton’s direction is clever without being showy and the set design is inviting and familiar.

At times the show is more like a Jonny & the Baptists’ gig with theatre vignettes, but that’s not a bad thing. The fragmented form works well and supports the themes of the play. Plus, all the cast know exactly how to work the audience and keep the pace tight so it’s always completely engaging and often laugh out loud funny.

The blurb calls this a ‘rebellious comedy for grown-ups’ and Donohoe’s narrative is rebellious too, in that he refuses to give us a tidy ending. But maybe that’s part of the point. For most of us, life is messy, loose ends are often left loose and resolution or closure aren’t always easy or forthcoming.

This is entertaining, unique Christmas theatre with a political punch and an unexpected tenderness. Go see it.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

Jonny and Rachel haven’t had a good Christmas in years, but this time they’re going to get it right. First they’ve got some things to sort out, and a story to tell you…

A hilarious and heart-warming story of family, politics, sibling rivalry – and making Christmas happen, despite everything. Stuffed with music, laughter and love, Thirty Christmases comes to New Diorama after an acclaimed initial run last year at Oxford’s Old Fire Station.

Written and performed by a trio of stars from theatre, comedy and music, including Drama Desk Award nominee Jonny Donahoe (Every Brilliant Thing), his musical comedy partner Paddy Gervers (Jonny & the Baptists) and Chortle Award nominee Rachel Parris (Austentatious, The IT Crowd).

Director: Alice Hamilton.
Designer: Suzanne Burlton.
Lighting Designer: Teresa Nagel

Thirty Christmases
Mon 4 – Sat 23 December 2017


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