Writer and Director: Ginger Johnson
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
There are alternative Christmas shows and then there are seriously alternative Christmas shows. Ginger Johnson’s How to Catch a Krampusis very much the latter, a bizarre horror-panto-drag mix that defies explanation. With a mission to shun standard heteronormative approaches to yuletide fare and with two LGBTQ+ charities benefitting from the run, this certainly will be the oddest thing you’ll see this festive season.
Set both in front and behind the curtain of a crumbling Music Hall, mistress of ceremonies Ginger quickly becomes embroiled in the tale of a lost child and his distraught family. She is certain that the notorious Krampus has struck so Ginger sets out to find the child using any means she can and restore him to his sister, but not without showcasing a number of her comedy-dance acts along the way.
With an eye clearly still on Halloween, Sink the Pink’s new show revels in its horror references and creation of spooky atmosphere. There is more than a little influence from The League of Gentlemen– especially the 2017 Inside No 9 episode that featured the Krampus, not to mention Johnson’s vocal resemblance to some of Reece Shearsmith’s Royston Vasey creations – but How to Catch a Krampus certainly makes the horror-panto a genre all its own.
The two aspects of the show succeed for different reasons. The thin central storyline told in short bursts and frustratingly eked out over 2.5 hours is full of well-staged spookiness. As writer and director, Johnson creates some creepy set piece moments including the choir-like rendition of Thriller that opens Act Two as well as Ginger’s encounters with the spirit world that give the show much of its spectacle – although the unnecessary female nudity should surely be a thing of the past. Yet the Krampus itself barely gets a look in when there is scope to feed the audiences’ fears much earlier, sketching out the nature of the creature and how dangerous it can be.
The second track involves a series of Music Hall acts designed to offer light relief but ultimately dominate the show. The skits are mostly very funny including an advert for a Christmas CD with unusual songs such as the Bob the Builder theme tune and Mr Blobbysung as carols, a song about a masochist tango with plenty of gory language and a big finale attempting to create a new version of The Twelve Days of Christmaswith only five increasingly exasperated performers. The rest are hit and miss with a tendency to over-extend the joke for several minutes longer than needed.
There are plenty of ideas here and for Sink the Pink fans clearly lots of references that may not make sense to a wider audience, but the two parts of How to Catch a Krampus never seem to come together. The constant back and forth divests the horror story of its tension while there is plenty of laborious curtain-pulling to separate it from the Music Hall pieces. Johnson is an engaging lead and does much to fill the breach, but it never quite feels like one show.
Fellow performers Lavinia Coop, David Cumming, Mairi Houston, Mahatma Khandi and Maxi More have lots of characterful grotesques to play which they clearly relish, and the big ensemble sections are among the highlights. There are good causes at work behind the scene of How to Catch a Krampus but mixed results on stage, although anyone looking for a truly alternative night out in December might want to give this a try.
Runs until 23 December 2018 | Image: Ali Wright