Get Santa! – Royal Court Theatre

Ok, the fact that the Christmas tree was decorated with bacon should have been a sign that Get Santa! wasn’t going to be your normal traditional Christmas show. Given that it’s being staged at the Royal Court and written by an author better known for his hard-hitting works it shouldn’t be a surprise that, while there is much to delight the children, it is in fact a much darker and more surreal offering that may appeal more to adults than the younger demographic.

10 year old Holly hates Christmas. Each year she writes to Santa asking for the one true present she really craves but instead gets mountains of toys. This year will be different; Holly plans to kidnap Santa until he arranges her to meet her estranged dad.

Ok so far that all sounds fairly normal but then things head off into the bizarre. To give to much away would take much of the fun out of the piece. Suffice to say Holly’s step father is a dog, her teddy walks and talks, Santa’s son has amnesia and Santa himself has blocked the toilet after eating far too much Christmas cake. Already strained family relationships are driven to the brink by being forced to relive Christmas Day over and over again ala Groundhog Day.

It’s also very surreal and, for a children’s show, surprisingly dark. The musical interludes may feature festive clad carollers but listen to the lyrics carefully and there’s a much more adult theme. It is perhaps in these musical numbers that the show falls flat. While lyrically clever they seem incongruous to the madcap action.

At the centre of the piece is a wonderfully feisty performance from Imogen Doel as 10 year old Holly. At once both childish and perhaps the most mature person in this mad household, it is a captivating performance.

Anthony Neilson directs his own play with pace, letting the madness stay just the right side of pantomime send up. It’s not a perfect piece, Holly’s brashness become wearisome at times and the ending seems just a bit to surreal but there is enough black humour here to keep adults and even children amused in the post Christmas blues.

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