A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale
Written & performed by Lisa Dallinger, Tegan Jones, Kelley Kerr Young, Sharon Kulupach, Emma Jo McKay & Constance Washington. Directed by Jennifer Monk. A Girls Act Good Production. The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne. 17-22 December 2018

A mix of nostalgia, satire and physical comedy make up this warm and engaging ‘Christmas’ show, performed by six women in Christmas red and green outfits.  There’s some send-up disco-style dancing.  There are impersonations of iconic Christmas figures: harassed Mums on whom the whole burden falls, but disapproval for anyone who doesn’t ‘celebrate correctly’, drunken uncles at Christmas dinner, in-your-face sales people, a grumpy supervisor of the ‘photo with Santa’ queue.  There are Christmas songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and that originally very sad song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas.  In fact, despite the energy and enthusiasm of the performers, a wistful sadness almost wins out – but it’s a not an unpleasing sadness… 

There are reminiscences of childhood Christmas’s, the exchange of competing Christmas pudding recipes, lists of once-special Christmas foods, knowing performances of Christmas gift catalogues (sharp contrast to the reminiscences), Christmas resolutions about not eating too much, not drinking too much and getting everything done by Christmas Day.  The stand-out and funniest number comes when the whole cast create a suburban street of Christmas lights, complete with reindeer and a Santa who freezes up in the middle of ho-ho-ing.  This number is also the only appearance on stage of director Jennifer Monk – who also operates the lights extremely well for the whole show – the best I’ve seen for a Butterfly Club show.

The Girls Act Good team claim that their show is ‘verbatim’ theatre – ‘inspired by real-life conversations and stories about Christmas from women across Australia’.  That certainly supplies authenticity and real feeling, but the memories and anecdotes do leave the audience hanging sometimes: no ending, no punchline.  So, in this Christmas grab bag, the material is a little uneven, as are the performances – some just revel in being looked at, others are a touch reticent.  Girls Act Good, an all-female troupe, generate their own material – with all the risks that implies.  But here Jennifer Monk keeps things rolling along, the cast is immensely likeable, the show has that elusive thing ‘heart’ – and the audience has a merry if wistful Christmas time.

Michael Brindley

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