Comedy sketch group Your Ant Fanny and drag/cabaret trio Bonnie and the Bonnettes join forces to create and perform Live Theatre’s Christmas offering. Instead of a pantomime, this wonderfully intimate venue is presenting Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular, a difficult to categorise comedy play that includes dancing, lip-synching, sketch comedy, dirty jokes, and a surprisingly large amount of heart.
The basis of the plot is the dreaded office Christmas party – a dangerously hackneyed concept that Bonnie and Fanny manage to breathe originality into with an array of stereotypical characters that, over the course of the story, all reveal hidden depths. Under the guidance of ineffectual and self-absorbed middle manager Kim (Lydia Brickland), the all-female office is having a party on the last work day before Christmas. The proceedings are organised by perky over-achiever Holly (Katie Powell) with music provided by “DJ” Stace (Rebecca Glendenning). Less enthusiastic about the celebrations are the rest of the office, made up of acerbic Ivy (Matilda Neill), world-weary veteran Lynne (Cameron Sharp) and young newcomer Penny (Brogan Gilbert). At least the initially awkward Carol (Jackie Edwards) is enjoying herself, although dowdy office workhorse Lorraine (Hattie Eason) is failing to get into the spirit of things. When an unfortunately abusive email is accidently sent to the dreaded (and unseen) “boss upstairs”, the disparate workers team up to remedy the situation before the proverbial substance hits the proverbial fan.
The show takes a little bit of time to get into its stride as it introduces the characters and their relationships with each other. However this is time well spent as it allows the characters to subsequently have satisfying and, in some cases emotional arcs. Not that this stops the script being full of wonderfully filthy one-liners and smart observational comedy. Between musical interludes where the cast enthusiastically dance and lip-synch along with upbeat renditions of famous songs, there are some wonderful sketches that are related to the central plot but which feature members of the troupe playing different characters (think along the lines of the Monty Python team in The Holy Grail or The Life of Brian). These vignettes offer some of the evening’s funniest moments, as well as showcasing the entire cast’s talent and versatility at character-driven comedy.
It’s hard to praise any member of the cast above the others as this feels very much like a group effort and everyone is so brilliant. Glendenning is hilariously enthusiastic as a “gangsta”, Gilbert perfectly delivers nonsensical and naïve one-liners, Powell is beautifully bubbly while maintaining a barely supressed hysteria and Neill looks to be having a wonderful time playing an unapologetic bitch. Edwards portrays a “radgie” (those from outside of the North East look it up) worryingly well, Brickland delivers empty jargon-filled speeches brilliantly, Sharp convincingly embodies his woman-of-a-certain-age character, and Eason riotously moves from “beige” office bore, through wild maniac, to being remorseful and embarrassed.
Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular is a real tonic which showcases some extraordinary North Eastern talent. It is a perfect child-free evening out which results in the entire audience on their feet dancing and cheering.
On the strength of this wonderful show, this reviewer definitely wants more from Bonnie, as well as craving a lot more Fanny too.
Runs until 23rd December 2021