Review: ★★★★ Horrible Christmas, Alexandra Palace

Review: ★★★★ Horrible Christmas, Alexandra Palace

Hidden for over 80 years, Alexandra Palace Theatre opens its doors in a state of arrested decay. As if frozen in time, it’s the perfect setting for an historical tour through the ages.

Oliver Cromwell, Charles Dickens, Rudolph and St Nicholas himself, join forces to help one young boy save Christmas.

Readers of Terry Deary’s Horrible History franchise; which has since become cult daytime viewing, won’t be disappointed, as Horrible Christmas retains all the black humour and musicality of the best-selling serial, to offer up a new alternative to panto.                                             

Renowned for their contribution to children’s theatre, the Birmingham Stage Company put on an impressive display. Tom Cawte convinces as young Watson, whilst his counterpart Erika Poole makes for an endearing Holmes.         

It’s Chris Gunter & Ashley Bowden’s pairing, as the villainous Sydney Clause and sidekick Rudolph however that takes centre stage, and despite not wanting to emulate them, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by their charisma and humour.                                                       

BSC’s director Neal Foster merges into an array of characters, and after 26 years in the company he’s a dab hand at gauging the audience. After a rather lengthy first half, his second act entrance as Henry VIII actively raises the energy levels of the auditorium, and is in large responsible for the success of the second half.                                           

Laura Dalgleish is a similarly strong character actor, and both Natalie Simone and Ed Allenby lend themselves attentively to minor roles; offering up even more comic relief.                                               

Entrances and exits are exposed for those sat on the front few rows, meaning transitions look occasionally stunted and messy, and sadly with what seems like only a third of the theatre’s capacity in use, the audience participation element that’s so vital for pantomimes, proves a challenge, especially towards the start of the show.

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Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, love and generosity; the perfect time to pause awhile and take stock.

However, with the rise of commercialism, the world is encouraged to eat, drink and buy as much as possible.

Remembering the true meaning of Christmas in a world that’s changing and evolving is perhaps the greatest challenge.

In fact, what Horrible Christmas does so well is remind people that Christmas is the time of year where everybody should rejoice and be happy.

Superficial things, like presents and money mask the simplicity of the message of Christmas.

Tudor, Victorian, Puritan, Millennial, we should all enjoy life while we have the chance to.

Matthew Scott’s score is a reminder to laugh and Jacqueline Trousdale’s design evokes the rich, warm colour of the holidays.

Ally Pally is truly ‘The People’s Palace,’ regaling Christmas tales for families as far back as 1875.

So Horrible Christmas continues its legacy of spectacle and wonder, reminding us that Christmas isn’t really that horrible after all!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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