Pros: Great physical comedy and strong musical numbers. Plenty of scenes where the audience roared with laughter.
Cons: Festive and fruity, but maybe too much slapstick for some.
If you’re producing a show where you want the audience members to laugh and clap, it’s quite a clever ploy to teach them just how you want them to do it before the show begins. That’s exactly what the Slingshot Theatre crew do, and it’s in-and-of-itself very funny, like being in some laughter therapy session a wacky friend has convinced you to go along to. Come to think of it, the same could be said of the show itself, Nativity in Creakebottom at the New Diorama Theatre.
The story is about the All-Male Amateur Dramatics Society of Creakebottom –bearing the proud chest-beating acronym, the AMADSC – and the most direful of circumstances about to beset them: a woman wants in. Just at the point where fame lies ahead for these village thespians, in their retelling of the birth of Jesus at the event that is the maker and breaker of global superstars: none other than the Suffolk Theatre festival. The only way Susie Pimpleknickers can infiltrate the ranks is if she dressers as a man, Michael Outwit. And from there on in, there’s a good dose of fast-paced, madcap buffoonery, with dazzling musical numbers to boot.
The physical comedy is energetic and hilarious throughout. And the songs are clever and entertaining. The rhyming sections were particularly good and filled with the clarity and entertainment of Shakespeare and the ribaldry one sees in medieval plays done to their best. It was nice to feel so thoroughly acquainted with the story of the nativity, particularly since I’ve somehow not caught a whiff of a nativity scene this year, which was leaving me feeling rather un-festive.
The performances were very strong throughout, and with each actor making the part their own, and all the more engaging. Kate Mounce as Susie is a natural in both the male and female roles, and her romantic scenes with the guileless vicar are very sweet. Gus Blathermouth lives up to his name, and his wordy flourishes have a hidden charm. The play-within-a-play nativity scenes were most admirable, as all the cast did an excellent job as characters who are amateur actors trying to act well and doing it very badly. Not easy to do, I imagine, but very funny to watch. The musical talents of the cast were put to good use, with instruments including the guitar, trumpet, tambourine, and – at one point – a dizzying array of whistles and kazoos. And no tweed has been spared in the costume department, which really brings the cosiness of village life to this central London locale. The show is a one-off at the New Diorama theatre but it is touring and hopefully you will have a chance to see it elsewhere. This particular theatre space is clean and fresh, with a rare instance of an auditorium making bright lighting work in its favour.
Nativity in Creakebottom is as fresh and fruity as your Christmas mince pie. No doubt some will find its generous filling of unceasing slapstick a little too intense. But if the sound alone of the word ‘creakebottom’ causes you to snicker, then it’s a good sign you’ll probably be more than happy to gorge on the comedy excess this show strives to deliver. This irreverent Christmas jolly on the birth of Jesus is laugh-out-loud funny, with enough ridiculousness to see you through to your Christmas cracker party hats and corny jokes.
Author: Christopher Dennis
Director: Andrew C. Wadsworth
Producer: Slingshot Theatre
Booking Until: One-off performance, touring details here
Box Office: 020 7383 9034
Booking Link: http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/nativity-in-creakebottom