thu 30/03/2023

A Christmas Carol-ish, Soho Theatre review - Mr Swallow causes havoc again | reviews, news & interviews

A Christmas Carol-ish, Soho Theatre review - Mr Swallow causes havoc again

A Christmas Carol-ish, Soho Theatre review - Mr Swallow causes havoc again

Nick Mohammed's creation mangles Dickens

From left: Sarah Hadland, Nick Mohammed, David Elms and Kieran HodgsonMatt Crockett

At this time of year you can't move for productions of A Christmas Carol, Dickens' seasonal morality tale. Some are brilliant, some so-so, but this one by the power-crazed impresario Mr Swallow, whose ambition always exceeds his talent, is a joy.

Nick Mohammed – deservedly brought to an international audience as the nice-then-nasty Nate in Ted Lasso – appears in A Christmas Carol-ish as the vain, preening Mr Swallow, trying to underpay everyone on stage. In the opening scene his sidekick, Mr Goldsworth (David Elms), discovers Mr Swallow has forgotten to buy the rights – so it's no longer Scrooge being visited by the ghost of past, present and future, but Santa, who thankfully is out of copyright.

Mr Swallow then has, he tells us, “to make it up as I go along” and, as ever with him on stage, things descend into chaos very quickly.

Mr Goldsworth is an elf and Kieran Hodgson is paid-by-the-line and put-upon Jonathan, playing reindeer Rudolf (“Rudolf? Rudolf Hess?”, asks the easily confused Mr Swallow, a joke that gets a magnificent payoff later in the show). Sarah Hadland is onstage vocalist Rochelle, late of cruise ships and keen to plug her self-recorded Christmas album (the jaunty songs in the show are by Mohammed and Oliver Birch), while keyboardist Honor Halford-MacLeod (mostly) manages to keep a straight face.

Santa is a ghastly sweat-shop owner who, having been too lazy to read children's letters, has two billion presents to deliver on Christmas Eve. A crazy Nativity story, with the hapless Jonathan as Mary, is shoehorned in, plus shifts in time as ghosts of past and future appear, interruptions from Rochelle, who is increasingly peeved she won't get her big solo, as well as pea-brain Mr Swallow smashing the fourth wall by questioning details of the narrative (such as it is), and the voice of God supplied by David Schwimmer (Mohammed's colleague on Intelligence). Fly Davis's glitzy set, meanwhile, contains a huge, teetering pile of undelivered gifts which you just know will have a plot point of its own too.

Confused? Of course you are, because that's the point – every detail of what appears to be a hopeless, amateurish mess is closely plotted. Strangely though, in a show played for laughs, Santa's redemption, when it eventually comes, is genuinely moving – although of course Mohammed immediately cuts through that with another gag.

The show, directed by Matt Peover, feels just slightly stretched, but there are flashes of brilliance over its 80 minutes.

Santa is a ghastly sweat-shop owner and a crazy Nativity story is shoehorned in

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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