The Other Room pub theatre has created a Christmas tradition of offering a grown-up ‘anti-panto’ as an antidote to the usual family-oriented Yuletide fare. Young company Big Loop takes the slot this year and certainly attacks the Christmas spirit with hearty gusto in this black comedy.
Cheer focuses on a near-future society in which Christmas is the preserve of the wealthy, paid for with a licence, while poorer people make do with a black-market drug called Cheer that emulates the Christmassy feeling.
In search of a counterfeit Christmas licence, Todd (Cory Tucker) blags his way into the office of poor little rich girl Jules (Alice Downing). When they find themselves trapped together, it emerges – rather predictably – that, despite being from opposite sides of the social spectrum, their experiences of Christmas past are equally vacuous.
So far, so cynical. The script is laboured and repetitive and little is said about the bloated commercialism of Christmas that we haven’t heard before. It feels like a devised student piece and is sorely underdeveloped.
The drama isn’t helped by the fact that Tucker plays the working-class chancer with an accent that suggests a character who has never been near a state school, let alone a job centre.
Even the two-page programme sheet contains 14 uses of the word ‘fuck’, which marks this as a company stuck in an adolescent phase. It will be interesting to see how it matures in future.