“one of the funniest experiences you can have a theatre”
It’s written into law that, like Hamlet or The Importance of Being Earnest throughout the year, there must be at least 12 productions of A Christmas Carol running when the festive seasons rolls around. Without a doubt, A Pissedmas Carol tops the list.
Produced by Sh!tfaced Showtime (who also do Sh!tfaced Shakespeare), the show is a perfectly ordinary telling of the Charles Dickens classic save for one simple-but-genius twist: one of the cast of five gets stupendously drunk before the show and continues drinking throughout. It’s something that could easily go horribly wrong, but this team pulls it off with total brilliance.
In this performance, James Murfitt was the unfortunate actor who had to knock back some beers and most of a bottle of Tanqueray gin before the show even began, which was followed by more beers and even some Gaviscon during the play. In many ways, Murfitt seemed like the best choice from the audience’s perspective since they were playing Scrooge.
It’s only natural that the inebriated actor will want to go off-script, and the rest of the cast (Katy Baker, John Mitton, Issy Wroe Wright, Hal Hillman, Will Seaward, Daniel Quirke, Charlotte Brooke and Nick House in rotation across performances) do a stellar job of going along with it without derailing the plot too much. However, when that actor is playing the lead character who has a lot of control over the plot, it leads to a lot of derailing that ends up being exceptionally hilarious. In this version, Scrooge becomes a queer icon, drops the c-word like it’s going out of style, and completely rewrites the ending by murdering Bob Cratchitt. Seeing the gleam in the actors’ eyes as they magnificently mutilate the source material is superb, and they keep the audience in the palm of their hands throughout, in the most sidesplitting ways.
The audience get to be involved in the action too, with members bestowed with horns and crackers by the bellowing narrator that can keep the drinks flowing when used, and charades suggestions being played out on stage.
Thanks to Katy Baker’s slick direction and actors’ exquisite interplay and improv skills, A Pissedmas Carol is one of the funniest experiences you can have a theatre, and one of the best presents you can give yourself this Christmas.
“a sensational show … the script sizzles with wit”
Does Six need introducing? Is there anyone at this point who isn’t aware of the musical phenomenon that’s snowballed massively in popularity since 2018, resulting now in its permanent fixture at the Vaudeville Theatre? Probably not. Its simple but effective and easily marketable concept is what propelled the show so far, after all. But, three years on, does it still stand up, stand out, and hook you in?
For those unfamiliar with the premise (both of you), Six sees Henry VIII’s wives brought together on stage. They decide to perform for the audience in turn, each trying to prove that they were the wife who had it the worst. They all rise to the challenge, belting out anthems to the audience about the hardships they suffered, in what feels more like a concert than a run-of-the-mill musical: the band (led superbly by Lauren Hopkinson) are prominently on stage for the whole performance, the costumes (Gabriella Slade) look like they were stolen straight out of the wardrobe of the latest pop icon’s arena tour, and the set (Emma Bailey) and lighting (Tim Deiling) are clearly invoking the feeling of being at a gig. It makes for a spectacle for the senses which frequently dazzles.
The cast are also clearly having an absolute blast. Under the direction of Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, they work stupendously well together, quickly establishing defined characters through bickering interactions between songs and generating a rapport that’s a delight to watch. The standouts were undoubtedly Cherelle Jay and Alexia McIntosh, who in this performance played Anne Boleyn and Anna of Cleves respectively. Jay’s song, ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ is performed with enrapturing charm and cheekiness, while McIntosh’s smugness and interplay with the audience in ‘Get Down’ will leave your face hurting from the grin that’ll be plastered on it. The vocals from all the cast are also jaw-on-the-floor fantastic, with Hana Stewart (Catherine Parr in this performance) being especially exceptional.
Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have crafted a sensational show together: the music would feel right at home in the charts but never forgets to serve the characters above all else, and the script sizzles with wit. There are some moments towards the end when it feels a little student-y, but it’s tremendously easy to overlook when the rest of the show is so joyous. Six is still totally superlative, and I expect it will continue to be for many years to come.