Of Christmas Past
Spielman Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
There have been many revisionist versions of key historical characters and events in the last few decades. This time it is Santa Claus’s turn to be investigated and have the light shone on the mysterious existence of this famous cultural figure.
Douglas Walker takes a surreal journey through the last 100 years of history hinting that something went awry when the American Coca Cola Company became involved in the relaunching Santa Claus in 1916 in to his now familiar, fur-trimmed red outfit to match their own brand livery.
With some considerable lateral thinking, Walker constructs, piece by piece, probably one of the most complicated and comically absurd conspiracy theories suggesting that Santa Claus was replaced by a series of historical figures, either political refugees concealing their identity, or celebrities suffering fatigue, seeking anonymity in the guise of the fat jolly old man
From Gregory Rasputin, Edward VIII, Trotsky to Pablo Escobar, if you are dead, famous, or had a beard, you are probably part of the conspiracy in Douglas’s alternate universe. This includes Osama Bin Laden.
It is a solo show with Walker deftly managing the transition from one from imagined historical character to another by smoothly, but rapidly, changing just his accent—from the Russian Rasputin, to the southern drawl of the Coca Cola executive, to Edward VIII’s valet, to the CIA. He leaps through as many characters as he does years, including Elvis Presley and, possibly a first on stage, Arthur Scargill.
It is an original piece of writing delivered at breakneck speed by the likeable and highly imaginative Walker. He clearly has fun with wordplay and busily sows seeds for punchlines not delivered until several minutes later, or even more.
In fact, some of the jokes are so intricately woven in to the story and delivered so rapidly that it can be difficult for the audience to keep up. Some consideration to changes in pace, or even a pause for breath, would certainly mean less is thrown overboard in this intelligent, but highly whimsical, alternative comedy.
Reviewer: Joan Phillips