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Review of A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters – 2.5 Stars

Robin

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2017

★★½

“There is a reassuringly relaxed and fun quality to the pair that can’t help but draw us in”

 

As the Christmas season erupts to dominate the theatre calendar, we can look forward to a stockpile of emails and social media messages to bring in the occasion. The Hope Theatre instead chooses a different path. Focusing on the round robin letters real people have sent over the years, ‘A Curmudgeon’s Guide …’ flicks between the smug, the funny and the tragic from those who choose to update us on their year just gone.

Loosely, the piece is held together through a rough framing device. We are invited into the home of a couple, played by Kate Russell-Smith and Claire Lacey. Over time they have amassed a vast collection of letters from a variety of family, friends and far off acquaintances. They choose to share a few of them with us over the course of just under an hour.

Scott Le Crass’ production begins brightly. The lighting design from Jai Morjaria is comfortable in bathing the play in a glowing, warm tinge. There is a reassuringly relaxed and fun quality to the pair that can’t help but draw us in as they offer us treats and invite us to pull crackers. Some of the initial letters, all collected from a book by Simon Hoggart, are fun and it is a joy to hear some of the outlandishly boastful claims that families have sent over the years. But after a while the repetitious nature of mocking each letter begins to grate. This combines with a poorly developed story behind the characters that fails to draw its audience in.

In Russell-Smith and Lacey, you get the sense of real talent being wasted. Lacey brings a jagged edge to her put downs as Russell-Smith emits a lighter demeanour that is engaging to watch. But they are bogged down with a relationship that is punctuated by increasingly unrealistic stoppages, building to an ending that seemingly had the intention of drawing emotion but comes across as melodramatic and unearned. There is also a hint in parts that the show shares notes of the smugness present in quite a few of the letters.

As an idea there is potentially an interesting concept, but the narrative and conceit are far too separate in execution to make a fully coherent show. Ultimately, ‘A curmudgeon’s guide’ is a muddled package that fails to carry the fun warmth of its beginning.

 

Reviewed by Callum McCartney

Hope

 

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters

is at the Hope Theatre until 23rd December

 

 

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