The Northern Stage Christmas shows are intended to provide a Yuletide alternative to the hugely popular pantomimes in Newcastle, and artistic director Lorne Campbell has succeeded.
With Anthony Neilson’s script we get something that is mad, bad, whacky and good fun.
As you’d expect from Northern Stage the production and setting are superb.
The advent calendar doors slide apart and we see a traditional Christmas front room scene with twinkling fairy lights, stockings hanging above the large, open mantelpiece and presents under the tree.
But that is where normalcy ends. The tree has been decorated with bacon baubles and chipolata tinsel by a very funny dog called Bernard (Gary Kitching). We get a banjo-playing cat (Ally Macrae), a beardless Santa (James Ryland) in a vest and singing snowmen appearing throughout.
Yes folks, for the next two and a half hours we are in the company of the madcap Finnigan family that includes Jane Holman as the singing granny, a crazy mam (Paula Penman) and a petulant ten-year-old called Holly (Tessa Parr) who dislikes Santa because he never brings her what she wants. All she desires for Christmas is her real dad; given her step dad is Bernard the dog, it’s a reasonable request.
Holly’s plan is to kidnap Santa, tie him to the tree and electrocute him in order to get him to bring her real dad. With her best friend, a giant teddy (Scott Turnbull), who later turns out to be an evil imposter with a Russian accent, Holly lies in wait for the man in red to appear.
Enter Santa and his incompetent son and apprentice Bumblehole (Tom Walton), who make their respective entrances through the skylight and chimney.
Cue slapstick; live, original, music; dancing; and singing. The first half tends to overdo the explosion and some of the conversations are too long at the expense of action but the second half is wicked and skyrockets; we get a wonderful Groundhog Day scenario and raucous laughter at fart jokes.
After a run of below par Northern Stage Christmas shows, this one hits the mark for the first time since Christmas Carol a number of years ago.