Two ‘businessmen’, a prostitute, a kleptomaniac elf, and empty warehouse. What could possibly go wrong?’ So read the publicity for Anthony Neilson’s comedy, The Night Before Christmas, which was performed between November 13 and 16 by second and final year students at the University of Cumbria.
Well, what could go wrong in what was also billed as a comedy?
During the bizarre Christmas Eve, no-one was quite what or who they seemed, nothing went according to plan, and the final twist to the festive tale was a wonderful coup-de-théâtre.
There were strong performances from the cast of four: wide-boy ‘businessmen’ Simon and Gary (Daniel Butt and Joseph Lister), the enigmatic Elf (Alex Krupa) and Cherry the tart (Jasmine Izli).
Played on a suitably tacky but well-designed set, the action was fast, the pace excellent, just as Neilson’s well-wrought text demands.
There were some lapses in clarity, but at no point was the dramatic sense of a great romp dissipated.
The action was finely despatched as the byzantine plot developed.
Director Jez Colclough’s choice of play was as always an eminently apt vehicle for the talents of the students available.
The play lasted for less than an hour and was laced with healthy doses of ‘humbug’, political cynicism and a due regard for the real, original meaning of Christmas.
All in all, it made for a welcome, light-hearted prelude to the Festive Season.
Review by Michael Nunn