Review: ★★★★ Thirty Christmases, New Diorama Theatre

Review: ★★★★ Thirty Christmases, New Diorama Theatre

From inside the eighty seat theatre that is the New Diorama, comes a light-hearted comedy that encapsulates the warmth and festivities of Christmas, as well as commenting on the family feuds, politics, tradition, and tragedy that this season so often illuminates.

We are introduced to a sister (Rachel), brother (Jonny) and best friend (Paddy) as they recount the many Christmases they have spent both together and apart in the last thirty years. Slowly, through the eyes of their childhood selves up until the present day they reflect on their experiences around Christmas time, revealing what a wonderful and terrible time it can be.

Upon the doors to the theatre opening Johnny Donahoe, Paddy Gervers and Rachel Pariss are chatting away to the audience members, beginning to hand out party hats and immediately infusing a sense of community into the space- breaking down the wall that often separates the audience and actors. From the beginning, there is an informality to their performances-one that feels comforting. The characters joke during the production that putting on this play was cheaper than going to therapy, however, with the jokes aside the story does feel personal and authentic – in fact, at one point I was confused as to whether it was actually an autobiographical piece (it’s not).

There is a feeling of nostalgia about the play, as if we were watching an old Christmas movie. The two siblings delve into their past, exposing the way in which they have hurt and been hurt by each other. I was struck by how wonderful Paddy Gervers’ acting was in the moments he introduced us to his character, and personally, I would have liked to have heard more about his backstory. However, despite this their performances were warm, naturally funny, and became increasingly more hilarious as they broke into a series of songs throughout the production, commenting on a range of topics -including the commercialisation of Christmas. The play does touch upon darker themes of abandonment, betrayal, and disappointment along the way, and the music provides a nice reprise from this. There are moments of real sadness as we hear the characters happily recount the games and traditions they created with their father, who eventually disappears one Christmas Eve.

The set is incredibly intimate, evoking a feeling that you are sat in the kitchen with them as they narrate this story. Props are cleverly concealed to avoid set changes, in one moment a lamp becomes a microphone and an ironing board a keyboard. It shows how much you can achieve with limited space and just a few props, and as it was genuinely exciting to see the whole play unfold without a single set change. Its a comedy to get you in the Christmas spirit, but one that will remind you that this isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. The show focuses on the idea forgiveness and togetherness, especially around Christmas time and the atmosphere in the New Diorama is warm and welcoming- a much better alternative to seeing a pantomime this festive season.


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