The Kings Head Theatre is once again offering multiple seasonal shows for their audiences to enjoy. Their late night offering this year is The Boy Under the Christmas Tree, written and directed by Glenn Chandler.
This production will have you roaring with laughter and will have you leaving with a warmth inside which even mulled wine cannot compete with.
Glenn Chandler is best known for Taggart - the world’s longest running TV detective series. However, he is no stranger to LGBT+ theatre with his production company Boys of the Empire Productions which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. The same company took Kids Play, also written by Glenn Chandler, to the Edinburgh Fringe this year where it recieved numerous 5 star reviews and won the Bobby Award.
The Boy Under the Christmas Tree begins as you might expect with Lawrence Bennett discovering a mysterious boy, wearing next-to-nothing, lying beneath his Christmas tree on the morning of December 25th. Who is the boy? Is he alive? How did he get in and what does he want? These are the questions that must be answered but not before a madcap adventure begins. An adventure in which we never leave the confines of Lawrence’s flat.
You may, or may not, be aware that there is no Christmas episode of Doctor Who this year so it is apt that we have Glenn Chandler‘s surreal script to fill the void. We are presented with a mysterious quirky Doctor, a colourful scarf, a bowl full of Jelly Babies, an enormous amount of whimsy, a story filled with Christmas magic and a whole lot of heart. This production will have you roaring with laughter and will have you leaving with a warmth inside which even mulled wine cannot compete with.
Daniel Grice plays the titular role of The Boy, full of naivety and amazement at the world he has found himself in. His portrayal was full of boyish enthusiasm intertwined with robotic behaviour. Daniel had nowhere to hide as he was on stage for virtually the entire show wearing little more than wrapping paper to hide his modesty. He did well with a character whose background is virtually a blank slate.
Jamie Loxton is Lawrence, our viewpoint into this wacky tale. He has a tricky role bridging the gap between the audience’s expectations and the oddities which then occur, but he pulls it off admirably. We never quite believe he is the down-n-out drunkard hinted at in the script as he plays Lawrence just a tad too cheerfully - but on reflection there were not many in the Kings Head audience who would not be cheerful to find a present like The Boy under their Christmas tree.
Sam Sheldon has the enviable task of bringing this crazy play to life playing a variety of characters named the Visitations, presumably in a reference to A Christmas Carol. Sam’s expressive face and his on-point delivery was exactly the kick which was needed. He has a very good sense of self and his comic timing is perfect. Sam’s absence was keenly felt when he was not on stage. The energy, and the music, would swell every time he was due to appear. His performance was so good that one of his exits received a spontaneous round of applause from the audience. Though all three cast members gave solid performances there was absolutely no doubt that Sam Sheldon was the star of the show and is a name I will look out for in the future.
The set was simple and every prop or piece of set was utilised in some way. The sound (designed by Julian Starr) and the lighting (designed by Jack Wills) were the only indicators we had that the play was about to descend into lunacy, as it swelled with each new visitation that was to come and then later reverting back to the normality of Lawrence’s bare flat. The set could be grander and have more going for it but as the show is currently playing on top of the Kings Head pantomime it was understandable that some concessions had to be made for logistical purposes.
Glenn Chandler knows his story is not the most original tale in the world and many films are referenced which follow similar occurrences. This version is almost certainly the most fun.
If there is a world in which you can get yourself a ticket then do, as it will be a much happier Christmas for you than in a world where you do not!