Reviewer: Ruby Isla Cera Marle
Santa’s elves are exhausted, overworked and they just can’t meet the demands of the festive season, so the workers that are at the top of the Christmas tree are recruiting a bauble level human to help with demand. Upon arrival, the audience is given candy canes which will be used at the end of Elf Off to cast our vote on who we think would be the best candidate for the role.
The interview process is led by head elf – Gingersparkles Treacletart, a highly strung, rosy-cheeked bundle of nervous energy. As Gingersparkles, the charismatic Laurie Stevens introduces each of the seven candidates who then launch into impassioned pleas for the position. All but one of these monologues have been written by the performers themselves. With seven different writers of vastly contrasting styles and subject matters, there is every chance that Elf Off could feel like a really disjointed production.
Thankfully, it avoided this pitfall by having Stevens’ character interject between each interviewee acting almost like a compare, a device which really helped to anchor the work.
At its core, Elf Off is an amusing satire that parodies many recognisable job interview tropes. For instance, Jonathan Price (Kim Hardy) is crippled by nerves bumbling through his generic answers, palpably nervous as he rummages through preprepared flashcards. A further level of vulnerability is exposed when we discover that this is the first interview since being made redundant. Hardy’s unexpected dark humour shines through when he reveals some of more unconventional devices that his therapist has recommended to help him cope with stress and anxiety. Another standout character is Hayley Baker (Angela Harvey) a despondent single mum on benefits whose only Christmas wish was for Santa to conjure up a dependable father figure for children.
The Old Red Lion Theatre is decked out with tinsel, glitter and presents aplenty. The perfect backdrop for interviewee seven Jade Smith (Rachel Stoneley) to burst into the space with her seductive performance of Santa Baby. It soon becomes clear that Jade has mistaken the nature of Lapland as an establishment and perhaps this scantily clad elf is more used to unwrapping presents then wrapping them. Stoneley is the most dynamic performer of the evening as she directly engages and interacts with the audience which in turn made for a more compelling exchange.
Elf Off is created and co-produced by a company of actors who have all trained of performed with The salon:collective. At a time of year when theatreland is saturated with pantomimes, it is refreshing to see a festive offering that dares to veer off the well-beaten, snow-covered track.
Runs until 3 December 2016 | Image: Contributed