The Santa Claus Show ~ a theatre review
The Santa Claus Show
By Tim Bray
Songs by Christine White
Produced by Tim Bray Productions
(10th anniversary production)
5 – 23 December 2011
Published at http://www.theatreview.org.nz
There’s a rumour doing the rounds that Santa Claus aka Father Christmas isn’t real.
Well, here’s the truth of it: he is ~ and if you want proof you need go no further than The Pumphouse Theatre on any day except Sunday between now and 23 December and you’ll find the jolly gentleman in residence sharing his version of the Christmas story. His BMI (Body Mass Index) might suggest a touch of unfashionable obesity and his ruddy and somewhat vasodilated cheeks imply he likes nothing better after a hard day at the work bench than the odd dram but it’s him alright – and the programme itself gives the show away.
It says ‘Santa Claus – Himself’.
Mind you, the programme also says ‘Santa Claus’ stunt double – Tim Raby’ but I never laid eyes on Raby at all.
So there you have it: Tim Raby is a myth … and Santa’s real!
Seriously though, Tim Raby is the perfect Santa. He’s jolly, funny, hard-working and looks and sounds just like everyone’s idea of the real thing. It’s great casting and Raby’s is a very satisfying performance.
I get ahead of myself, however, so let’s get something else straight: whilst Bray and Raby are anagramatically the same, the Tim’s are certainly not ‘smoke-and-mirrors, now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t’ versions of the same dude.
Oh, dear no!
They are as different as – well, Santa and Rudolph.
Tim Bray is tall and slim and Tim Raby is … well … Santa.
The Santa Claus Show is something of an institution in Auckland and this is Tim Bray Productions 10th Anniversary presentation of the work – and Raby has chubbied-up for the title role in eight of them.
That’s a labour of love to say the very least.
So, well done Tim … and Tim … if you know what I mean.
Playwright Bray has cleverly woven the central story of Christmas into his far more complex Santa scenes by means of some clever business involving two children, a set of stairs and a rather unfortunate cat. By involving kids in the telling of the story of ‘no room at the inn’ he cleverly avoids any of the potential brick bats that might hurtle his way were he to politicise the nativity or, heaven forbid, leave it out all together. After all, who’d choose to be an inn keeper if it involved being vilified throughout history or a shepherd if it meant wearing a tea towel on your head in a school hall for eternity?
John Parker’s clever set doubles as the interior of a modern house and a snowy grotto at the North Pole and any Santa would be thrilled to have such a crisp, pristine home. Excellent use is made of plastic corrugations onto which is projected a gobo of stars, falling snow and a delightful array of moveable boxes and props.
Bray’s plot orbits around Kelly (Kura Forrester), a superbly confident young woman with the longest list of Christmas wants anyone could ever imagine. Her journey is a simple one as she moves from an unwitting and self-centred world view to one of gregarious generosity.
Excellent use is made of tab scenes and Elfie (Lori Dungey) drives the action with madcap abandon and a freedom from restraint that is most refreshing. She introduces us to a Santa for the 21st century, a Santa fully equipped with email, a Facebook page and, without doubt, an iPhone4.
Through Elfie’s wiles Kelly becomes Santa’s annual helper and truly and effortlessly learns her lesson.
Children’s theatre – and in particular theatre for the Christmas season – requires endless transportation scenes and Bray and his team manage to adroitly avoid historical repetition with a new assortment of means whereby unsuspecting bodies can be transported through time, space and credibility. Santa’s arrival at the North Pole to meet with his annual helper is a sublime bit of trickery.
On arrival, as might be expected, Santa has a song and Himself is fortunate to have the song written especially for him by the wonderful Christine White. Who could ask for anything more? It’s simply charm personified!
There’s some clever use of shadow puppets, a delightful and fresh display of verbal repetition and, out of the blue, we meet an impressive assemblage of Santa’s out-sized toys created especially for the 2011 Festive Season. We are introduced to Cool Glam Rockstar (Becky Kuek), Woody from Toy Story (Seamus Ford), a sensational Barbie anyone would want to take home (Laura Penswick) and a traditional, cuddly Teddy Bear (Maya Lamb). Each has a funky song (Christine White) and much mileage is gained from the delight kids have in screaming ‘he’s behind you’ at the top of their raucous voices.
A Santa story wouldn’t be complete without Rudolph and this Rudolph (Seamus Ford) is a lollopy, flashing delight and the song ‘It’s a Magic Night for Giving’ contains all the great classical Christmas images. In fact the show answers most of the imponderable questions that children ask about Christmas, questions such as ‘if the toys are made by the elves at the North Pole why has this one got a price tag from Westfield, Newmarket on it?’ and ‘what does Santa do if you don’t have a chimney?’
Stumped for a comeback? Don’t be. See the show that has more nimble answers than Dr Oz!
There’s lots to marvel at – as there should be, it’s Christmas, after all – more than a few surprises, plenty of audience involvement and a deeply satisfying resolution
We learn that giving is better than getting, that Santa is real if you want him to be and that, ultimately, there is a gift for everyone.
There certainly is in Tim Bray Production’s The Santa Claus Show and I have no hesitation in recommending it to everyone. You’ll adore Santa Claus as himself (and be pretty satisfied with Tim Raby’s Santa stunt double as well … shhh!)
It’s fun, heart-warming stuff, and a haven away from the lunacy that is the modern corporate Christmas in a sticky suburban mall.
Thanks Tim, you’ve had a big year. Kids all over the Auckland region benefit from your work and none more-so than the kids from the decile one schools that you bring in to see your shows for free.
Time for you and your team to enjoy the summer and take a well earned break. You’ve more than earned it.
~ by dykiegirl on December 16, 2011.