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Horrible Christmas

“Crass christmas commercialisation”
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Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories series of entertaining educational books are rightly beloved of schoolchildren everywhere, but although they’ve proved a commercial and critical hit in Deary’s own adaptations before, the switch from page to stage really doesn’t work here with Horrible Christmas.

The Alexandra Palace Theatre, open again after 80 years of darkness, is a handsome space with a shabby chic charm, but the show itself is traumatically tatty.

It shoe-horns some historical facts about Christmas in days gone by into a story about an excitable schoolboy, a time-travelling female Sherlock Holmes, an evil Santa and his pugnacious Reindeer.
It transports the audience to a Victorian Christmas, and show us Dickens writing A Christmas Carol; a Tudor Christmas, with King Henry VIII feasting on a bowel-busting buffet; and ancient Christmas, with the original Saint Nick.

The problem with Neal Foster’s production, briefly, is that the story flaps around all over the place, and the historical aspect feel entirely secondary to some genuinely dreadful songs and relentless fart jokes. Jacqueline Trousdale’s sliding set design is uninspiring and far too small for a space this big. And, to top it all, it’s also over two hours long.

The eight-strong cast are slick and game, particularly Chris Gunter as a fiendish Father Christmas, but although they engineer something close to fun with sing-alongs and silliness, they can’t stop this whole enterprise stinking of opportunistic Christmas commercialism, rather than anything genuinely educational.


Related to this Review

Nativity! The MusicalNativity! The Musical

Production Details
Production nameHorrible Christmas
VenueAlexandra Palace
LocationLondon
StartsDecember 13, 2018
EndsDecember 30, 2018
Running time2hrs
AuthorTerry Deary
DirectorNeal Foster
Set designerJacqueline Trousdale
Lighting designerJason Taylor
Sound designerTom Lishman
CastAshley Bowden, Chris Gunter, Ed Allenby, Erika Poole, Laura Dalgleish, Natalie Simone, Neal Foster, Tom Cawte
ProducerBirmingham Stage Company
VerdictSlickly performed but crass and tatty Christmas-themed adaptation of Terry Deary’s Horrible History books
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Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

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