A Christmas Carol-ish - Soho Theatre
Ted Lasso star attempts the Dickens classic
It’s that time of year again when theatregoers are inundated with opportunities to see the festive productions of A Christmas Carol, but this one stands willingly apart from the rest. Possibly thanks to Mr Swallow’s lack of copyright awareness causing some on-the-fly, heavy-handed rewrites. The resulting concoction is a sort of Santa Scrooge musical mash-up with disgruntled actors, a demanding singer and a song about a turkey fighting back - very Christmassy!
Mr Swallow (Nick Mohammed) is back and ready to butcher another tale. He has gathered his producer Mr Goldsworth, desperate actor Jonathan and P&O Ferries superstar Rochelle Kelly, in an attempt to spread festive cheer and at least scrape back the budget needed to mount this ambitious production. The ensuing hour or so is absolute anarchy as characters fight for the spotlight, Rochelle threatens to walk if she can’t promote her new album and Santa seems more concerned with overpopulation than attempting to carry out his Christmas duties. The anarchy is contagious and over-the-top farcical - very much in step with the goes wrong style.
The cast, script and musical are out and out hilarious, with enough stamina to power the Christmas lights on Oxford street into the new year. The pace never ceases and the audience is left rippling in laughter. The humour is nicely varied too, with extravagant and loud moments, present tower I’m looking at you, balanced with more subtle asides that are wickedly quick and funny. Mohammed’s script is totally outlandish but refuses to miss a single beat of humour and for that, it must be commended.
Mohammed is a natural comedian, particularly when utilising his barmy and cynical character of Mr Swallow. He commands the stage, able to ensure the spotlight follows him wherever he goes. Subtle adlibs ensure he gets the final word and thanks to his careless confidence and delightful physical comedy he has the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end.
Whilst Nick Mohammed leads the show, the supporting three cast member ensemble are equally impressive. Sarah Hadland is delightfully boisterous and grating as lounge singer Rochelle. Her fantastic voice and impeccable timing are a delight to see. David Elms is great as Mr Swallow’s producer Mr Goldsworth, covering most of the characters from this loose adaptation of Dickens’s novel and Kieran Hodgson has a strong voice when performing the reindeer song as the red-nosed reindeer himself. The cast work well as a group and, like Mohammed, keep the jokes coming at a rapid pace, complimented by strong physical comedy and movement. David Schwimmer’s voice also makes an amusing appearance as god because why not?
For those that may be less keen on pantomime and sick to death of charming albeit faithful adaptations of A Christmas Carol, this production rations out more than enough festive cheer. It has sprinklings of magic despite the humbugs of a frugal Father Christmas - though maybe not a show for the whole family. A Christmas miracle albeit a chaotic one.
Photography - Matt Crockett
Running till 23 December - Tickets