Holy Presents review at Camden People’s Theatre, London – ‘giddy and irreverent’
Falling somewhere between a Viz cartoon and an episode of Father Ted, Holy Presents is a bubbly, Christmassy domestic farce written about that most sacred and institutionally lauded family: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
All three – with a brief cameo from god’s Sloaney PA Moses – are played by ‘humanette’ puppets. The Humanish trio’s human faces, wildly expressive and accentuated by cartoonish make-up, wigs and fake facial hair are propped up on chubby puppet bodies. It’s like Victorian equivalent of late night Nickelodeon.
Opening with a Secret Santa exchange and rapidly devolving into seasonal bitterness, backbiting and blatant aggression, Holy Presents will be recognisable to anyone who has ever spent a stressful Christmas with their family. There are as many jokes about dividing cooking duties and playing after-dinner games as there are about the patently absurd notion that the Holy Trinity are a typical suburban family, and Humanish tick boxes, blasphemous-comedic and observational-comedic, in one preposterous strike.
Fiona Clift is delightful as a dour, Scottish god, intent on “rewarding” his family with a Christmas performance of the abridged works of William Shakespeare. Clift’s blustery, patriarchal proto-senility is offset by the dirty, dim-witted uncle figure of Philippa Hambly’s Holy Ghost, and a tearfully sincere Helena Rice as a (Welsh) Jesus, who only wants his estranged mother Mary and her boring carpenter husband Joseph to visit for the day.
Despite the faintly ludicrous concept, this devised piece successfully speaks to the sentimental heart of a familial Christmas.