ComedyDramaLondonReview

Meet Me For The Holidays – Hen and Chickens Theatre, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Ian Nicholas

Director: Jason Moore

Usually at Christmas there’s extra work to be found, and in Meet Me For The Holidays ‘resting’ actors Alistair and Nigel have found employment in Santa’s Grotto in a department store. It’s Alistair’s eighth year as an elf and he can see that newbie Nigel isn’t cut out to play Father Christmas. So begins Ian Nicholas’ comedy, that is, unfortunately, short on laughs.

Both Alistair and Nigel have had better acting gigs. Now in his mid 30s, Alistair was once swing for Billy Elliot while 63-year-old Nigel used to be the leading man for the RSC. Alistair finds a quiet glamour in his Christmas role, but Nigel believes he is too good to don a red suit and bellow ‘Ho Ho Ho.’ His Santa is based on Scrooge.

The story isn’t much deeper than that but Nicholas hints a the lonely lives that both men lead. There are a few glimpses of other themes such as homophobia and sexual harassment on the casting couch, but these narratives soon fizzle out. Instead the story focuses on whether Nigel will get his mojo back. It’s Christmas; we all know he will. But overall, there’s not enough bite here for a camp comedy and not enough heart for the show to be festively charming. Nicholas’s play is stranded in no-man’s-land.

As Nigel and Alistair, Seamus Newham and Adam Forrester give solid performances, but Jason Moore’s direction is slow, and some of the dialogue is repetitive and pointless. One scene involving the ghost of RADA past is especially awkward and we’re to be thankful that the ghosts of RADA present and RADA future weren’t available. Luke Mazzamuto plays the ghost and also doubles up as the store’s manager. There’s little difference between the characters, but, perhaps, that is the point.

There’s a very old-fashioned feel to Meet Me For the Holidays and despite its mention of YouTube and Billy Elliot, the play could be set at any time in the last 40 years or so as the most up-to-date cultural references seem to be about the movie of Cabaret or Sondheim’s Follies. We understand that Alistair is an old soul, but his nostalgia for a perfect past isn’t fully explained, And surely Nigel would have met many gay men in the acting world?

But perhaps most troubling is the pace. The play is only 80 minutes long, but it feels like New Year’s Day by the time it finishes.

Runs until 18 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Slow Santa

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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