Theatre Review: An Awkward Family Christmas

By Janet McAllister

1 comment
Nasty or silly or both, these characters manage to pull out all the laughs they can.

Outrageous characters make for great laughs. Photo / Supplied
Outrageous characters make for great laughs. Photo / Supplied

No room for dull moments in this funny slapstick which takes no prisonersWith 11 people on stage and enough plotlines to rival Shortland Street, there's no room for dull moments in this funny slapstick which takes no prisoners.

Local playwright Thomas Sainsbury's script is edgily humorous and more polished than his plays often are, and he arranges (occasionally foul-mouthed) conversations between different people with ease. A stunning Outfit Theatre Company cast, which is directed by Ben Henson, pull out all the laughs they can.

The nicely legible stock characters are outrageously nasty or silly or both - Percy the boyfriend who pretends to be disabled (yet another triumph for the reliably hilarious Andrew Ford), the incestuous Aryan twins Keith and Keitha (their mother says they were the product of an alien abduction), the loser little brother looking for cash to start a marijuana business (a convincing Cole Jenkins) - and the recently separated parents, who both bring their new partners to the Christmas lunch.

Kate Vox crosses her eyes compellingly as a woman with murder on her mind, and Laura Daniel has great presence. But apparently it's still too much to ask New Zealanders to write slapstick without jeering at minorities - in this case, disabled women and lesbians.

The action takes place in real time in a realist set designed by John Parker: a suburban living room that looks like it hasn't been redecorated since the 70s. The costumes are memorably, wonderfully over-the-top: wedgie-high slacks and a blue pullover for Percy; identical apricot shorts and pullovers for the twins; hip-high running shorts for the lonely neighbour; and a va-va-voom black jumpsuit and sparkly leopard-print high heels for Dad's new squeeze with attitude (gorgeous Heidi Kauta).

Whoever cleans the stage after every performance has their work cut out for them. Things get messy on the way to resolution in this frivolous diversion.


What: An Awkward Family Christmas

Where: Herald Theatre, to December 1

- NZ Herald

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