Shaun Kitchener’s Christmas Farce, set in the green room of a contemporary retelling of the Nativity on press night, is rife with “Ooh, matron!” moments. That is, the kind of humour that thrives in an atmosphere of high colour, unsubtle flamboyance, which can be funny in small doses even if the appeal quickly wears thin. In the case of Kitchener’s play while some of these moments are fun, many others fall flat.
Parody-posh thespian homophobe Jonathan (Timothy George) locks horns with closeted radio personality Danny (Samuel Buttery) while Jonathan’s name-dropping nearly-ex-girlfriend Georgie (Katherine Edrupt) seduces actor Samuel (Alan Bradley). Kitchener’s plot includes such mishaps as vomiting understudies, not-so-clandestine affairs, jealous bitching and the sight of disgraced former soap star Stacey (Jamie-Rose Monk) teetering on the edge of a breakdown.
Stage manager Mackenzie (fidgety, excellent Marc-Gee Finch) adds some emotional depth to this frantic, over-the-top comedy, but his subplot romance with Danny treads a difficult line between laughing with and laughing at the two gay characters.
Though meant as an alternative panto, Stephen Davies’ production simply supplies more forced silliness. It occasionally tickles the audience’s ribs but eventually it becomes exhausting.