By Caitlin Price, Chief Proofreader
The set for Of Christmas Past gave little away about the play that was to come; on stage was a single, red armchair. And Christmas carols were playing as we filed in to our seats. So far, so Christmassy. Then a wild eyed, wild haired Douglas Walker (name of actor and character) came on stage and told us he’d shot Santa. Of Christmas Past turned out to be a Christmas story like no other.
Walker tells us a rather unconventional story of Santa Claus which starts with Grigori Rasputin. In 1916 Rasputin survived being poisoned, shot and drowned and escaped to Turkey. Walker then plays a string of diplomats refusing asylum to Rasputin who is eventually taken in by the USA… and the Coca Cola Company. In an effort to win brand loyalty the Company have decided to give a gift to every boy and girl in America. To do this they establish an off-the-grid secret village of workers in Finland and appoint Rasputin as their leader - aka Santa Claus. And this all happens in the first ten minutes.
Much of the rest of the play is an absurd relay of Santa Clauses who come to Lapland for revenge or retirement. Edward VIII, General Franco, Elvis and Pablo Escobar all get their turn and, under Lenin, the village is briefly a Communist utopia. The absurdity and mad energy of the play made for laugh out loud moments and the gloriously convoluted plot poked fun at its own complexity: at one point Walker exclaimed ‘It’s all so clear’. It certainly wasn’t but it was an enjoyable tangle of a plot in which to get lost.
The strange tale of the many Santas is framed by the story of the haunted conspiracy theorist, Douglas Walker. He’s a former journalist who believes he has uncovered the truth about Santa’s multiple identities. Naturally, the truth sounds insane so he’s committed to an asylum from which he escapes to track down Santa - aka Osama bin Laden.
Of Christmas Past was the first one-man play I’d ever seen, and I was a little apprehensive that it could prove awkward, but Walker’s energy and skill meant that the play was engaging from beginning to end. Walker, who also wrote the play, performed impressively for one hour straight with only a few minor hesitations and the odd questionable accent. The play did fall back on Christmas themed wordplay a little too often for me; its comedic strength lay in the absurdity of the plot, not the Christmas cracker puns. However, overall, Of Christmas Past was an exceptionally enjoyable and quirky hour of conspiratorial, Christmas comedy.
Running at the Tobacco Factory Theatres from 27-29 November.
Featured Image courtesy of Tobacco Factory Theatres
What is your favourite Christmas show?