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Thirty Christmases review at the Old Fire Station, Oxford – ‘warm, touching and funny’

Jonny Donahoe and Rache Parris in Thirty Christmases at the Old Fire Station, Oxford. Photo: Josh Thomalin

The Old Fire Station is ringing to the refrain: “Everybody’s having reindeer sex.” Not a family show then? Yes, actually, it’s absolutely about families. But it’s not for children.

Jonny Donahoe’s Thirty Christmases is a show of two halves with the first devoted to Donahoe’s eccentric understanding of what makes a family Christmas. Then the mood changes, as we learn his father disappeared one Christmas morning never to return.

The performers, Donahoe, along with Baptists band-mate Paddy Gervers and comedian Rachel Parris, give us a warm and convincing portrayal of many alternative dysfunctional family Christmases rolled into one. It’s often serious, sometimes dark, but never earnest and a punchline is always close to hand.

There are funny anecdotes about Jonny’s and Rachel’s fictional socialist, anarchist Jewish father, a man who created a new nog drink every Christmas.

Director Alice Hamilton keeps things ticking along with lively and witty routines and songs including an enjoyable nailing of virtue-signalling pop stars claiming to care about starving Africans. She allows just the right amount of movement and makes good use of the simple and effective set from Suzanne Burlton.

Thirty Christmases is informal, touching, and sometimes ironic, a welcome respite from the normal Christmas glitterfests.

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Warm and funny look at dysfunctional family Christmases.