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Review: Get Santa! at Northern Stage, Newcastle

Northern Stage's on-stage festive offering for the over sevens is a real - if a little surreal - Christmas treat

****

 

“My step dad is a dog called Bernard!”

“We celebrate Christmas every day!”

“My teddy bear is a devious Russian claiming to be my real dad!”

“My gran wears gold trainers, has a weekly tattoo and fancies the pants of Santa!”

Anyone who thinks The Journal has started reviewing episodes of the Jerry Springer Show can rest easy... the above are just a selection of plot twists to be found in Northern Stage’s thoroughly bonkers (in a really good way) festive offering for the over sevens this Christmas.

Having been on the receiving end of a bit of criticism for the 2013 show not being Christmassy enough, it’s fair to say that Get Santa! has more than redressed the balance.

When the sliding advent calendar doors part to get things started, we are greeted by a text book traditional Christmas Eve scene thanks to designer Garance Marneur.

Stockings are hanging above the fireplace. Presents are sitting under the tree. Fairy lights twinkle while a choir of split-faced snowmen offer a through-the-window backing chorus of Christmas cliches to the Finnigan family inside.

Tessa Parr, James Ryland and Tom Walton in Get Santa at Northern Stage
Tessa Parr, James Ryland and Tom Walton in Get Santa at Northern Stage
 

The vegans in our party could have probably done without the selection of bacon baubles and chipolata tinsel which graced the tree. Still, what do you expect when you put decorating duties in the paws of Bernard, played in wonderfully panting fashion by Gary Kitching.

Ten-year-old Holly isn’t moved by any of the above though.

She’s had it with Christmas - and especially its main man, Santa Claus. Not once has he given her what she asked for on her list - the chance to meet her real dad - and now he’s going to pay.

Having hatched a plan to keep him hostage until he brings her dad to the Christmas party, Holly, portrayed to petulant perfection by Tessa Parr, and her best friend - a giant teddy which was left on the doorstep for her by her real dad when she was five - lie in wait next to the fire.

But when Santa (James Ryland), and his heir-in-waiting, the clumsily lovable Bumbledore (Tom Walton), make their respective entrances through the chimney and skylight, things begin to go as nutty as the roast the aforementioned vegans will be enjoying on Christmas Day. (I refer you to the list of plot quirks above and won’t spoil it by explaining any further apart from saying that Scott Turnbull as a teddy from the dark side is a complete treat.)

Written by Anthony Neilson and directed with a smile by Northern Stage’s artistic director Lorne Campbell, Get Santa! puts the crackers firmly into this year’s on stage Christmas offering in the North East.

And we very much loved it.

From slaptick set pieces to catchy original music. From fluffy Russian baddies to a beardless Santa in a vest. And from a banjo-playing cat to a couple of familiar news reading faces who make a succession of successful on-screen cameo appearances, Get Santa! totally got us. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, call 0191 230 5151 or visit www.northernstage.co.uk to put that right.

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