The Night Before Christmas Review

Southwark Playhouse, London until 29 December 2018

Reviewed by Lisa Harlow


This is a revival of Anthony Neilson’s twisted festive comedy. Billed as an alchemical version of South Park, Miracle on 34th Street and Scrooged, this is an alternative Christmas message for those sourpusses who reached their limit for mince pies and flammable tinsel many moons ago.

Being a long time fan of South Park, I was prepared for dark and surreal humour on the Christmas theme, and yes, profanity. And belly laughs. Yes, it was dark. There were laughs. There was certainly the surreal. But most of all, it was profane. Absolutely swamped with the profane.

‘Gary’s (Douggie McMeekin) life is shit’. There’s no other way to describe his bargain basement life than how it is billed. The night before Christmas, this lost low-life chances across a fantastical character and before long, he was drawn his skint, roaringly acerbic mate Simon (Michael Salami) and the vitriolic prostitute Cherry into his charade. Having promised Cherry the best Power Ranger for her son in return for many, many ‘favours’ yet swiping the goods for his own child, Gary finds Cherry in the most foul of festive moods.  Yet somehow her fire and most sweary thunder gives way to a far purer desire (nursed underneath the layers of rage) when presented with the chance to live a ‘better’ life. From the unlikeliest of characters she brings forth the highest of ideals of the Christmas season.

Gary’s childlike belief in the possibility of Christmas magic, in spite of how he presents in his chaotic life,is extremely charming and provides the sweet against the sour of Simon’s anti-capitalistic disdain. As it transpires, Simon’s rantings are merely a paper shell for his drooling greed when offered the possibility of a get rich quick scheme.

There’s much to enjoy and snigger at in this anarchic show and the cast blast their way through the performance, with occasional pockets peppered throughout to allow some more traditional Christmas moments of enlightenment to take place. If it wasn’t so drowned in swearing, certainly more of the humour could shine through. Recommended viewing when you’ve really reached your Christmas limit and you just need to experience a festive twist of the perverse.