This is the Christmas show for people who hate Christmas shows. Anthony Neilson’s one-act 1995 comedy The Night Before Christmas, revived confidently here by Alex Sutton, is decidedly not festive fare for all the family. Definitely don’t bring the kids.
It is, as the title suggests, Christmas Eve. Gary works in a warehouse, selling knock-off children’s toys to anyone who will buy them. He’s divorced and depressed. And he’s discovered an elf – or at least, a diminutive bloke who claims to be an elf – upstairs. With a toolbox.
Over an all-too-brief hour, Gary and his mate Simon exasperatedly interrogate this elf, trying to discover whether he has fell off Santa’s sleigh as he claims, or is, in fact, a junkie who broke in to rob them. Neilson’s writing is a real riot – a sweary, sexually explicit but surprisingly moving riot encompassing everything from Christmas wishes to class A drugs.
But Alex Sutton’s dynamic production is primarily great because of its cast, and because of Douggie McMeekin’s Gary in particular. It’s a beautifully pitched comic performance, combining ideal amounts of oafishness, fecklessness and sweetness into one endearing, cuddly whole.
There’s great work too from Michael Salami, frustrated and frenetic as Simon, from Dan Starkey, hyperactively anxious as the elf, and from Unique Spencer, a ballsy prostitute who barges in half way through, demanding Gary hand over some Power Rangers for her son.
The whole thing unfolds with brio on Michael Leopold’s detailed warehouse set. An exquisitely enjoyable anti-Christmas show.