Undercover Christmas Club The Wardrobe Theatre:
Friday 13 November 2019
A delayed start time of 35 minutes pushing this to a 10.20pm start, a song about genital warts and a love story involving a horse, does not add up to a show that’s suitable for people aged 12 upwards, as is stated on its website. An age recommendation of 16 years upwards would better pitch this show, making expectations clear from the start.
It’s not that the song about genital warts isn’t funny, it is. And this celebration of banned Christmases from the days of yore is a suitably raucous affair. But, audience participation involving drinking a can of booze, spinning ten times before attempting to pin a tail on Mary’s donkey is definitely only for an adult crowd.
Riddlestick Theatre has created a Horrible Histories Christmas styled show for grown-ups, with plenty of singing and dancing around two short stories and audience participation. They do manage to capture an air of secrecy, as if we have genuinely been invited to a banned and exclusive party. At times, it gets a bit too excited, with one-liners sometimes lost amongst the competing volumes. The show really finds its footing during its second half, with its genital warts, gold and Frankincense story.
Thomas Manson as Barry Bacchus, leads the band of actor musician minstrels, with cast including Kate Stokes as the under confident Rose Potato, Ashley Scott as the fool Jack Pudding and Alison Cowling as hedonistic Mary. Silently steering the ship at the back is Sophie Jackson as Gladys, whose beautiful cello provided a stable force throughout.
The idea that God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, dice games, mince pies, celebrating the birth of Jesus and travelling theatre troupes became so problematic for the Puritans that Christmas was banned in 1647 is laughable. Or maybe it’s less hard to imagine being performed on a day Boris Johnson became Prime Minster for another five years.
This joyful and fun-filled production is an ideal late-night theatrical treat which feels vibrant, fresh and full of festive cheer.
Undercover Christmas Club is on at The Wardrobe Theatre until Sunday 22 December 2019.