Sitting in the kitchen, having a cuppa and a natter with a hilarious friend who’s always got a story to tell is exactly the vibe I got from 21 Round for Christmas, on now at The Hope Theatre. Alone on stage, Clare Bloomer plays Tracy, a 50-year-old woman who is cooking Christmas dinner for her enormous family, who are all enjoying games and general festive mirth in the next room. As might be all too familiar to many, she’s left alone with her bottle of wine to wrestle with a list of dietary requirements. To help pass the time, she talks to the audience sitting along the edges of her kitchen. You can’t have Christmas without a bit of tension, a lot of reminiscence and a hint of sadness, so don’t expect endless hilarity, but Tracy is one of those people who will always bring you back to earth with a laugh.
The risk taken by having a bit of audience participation paid off for us tonight, thanks to Bloomer’s charm; it is definitely one of the least painful interactions I’ve ever seen. The only real criticism, which unfortunately did jolt me back into reality for a few seconds, is that the offstage voices didn’t seem to match the age of the characters they were meant to be – Tracy’s husband and Carol both sound quite young, and the picture painted of them both would have them at 50+, but this is a minor detail.
This is a kitchen that you absolutely want to get a seat in, otherwise you’ll miss out on a rip-roaring and hilarious hour-and-a-bit. The set is simple, a cluttered kitchen in need of a lick of paint, but through Tracy’s storytelling it transforms into a boxing ring, a pub and more. It’s very much thanks to both Bloomer’s dedication to the character as well as Toby Hampton’s direction. It’s one of the most natural performances I’ve witnessed, utterly drawing us into the world created in the vivid script.
I’m so grateful to have spent a bit of time with Tracy in her kitchen. She’s feisty and loveable, and you just know she’d have your back in a fight. I can’t decide entirely if it made me feel festive for much reason except that it is set on Christmas day, but hey, if it works for Die Hard… But tonight, I’m with her every step of the way, and can’t recommend enough that you get to The Hope Theatre before the run of 21 Round for Christmas ends.
Written by: Matt Ballantyne & Toby Hampton
Directed by: Toby Hampton
Produced by: Kennedy Bloomer
Set & Costume Design by: Sorcha Corcoran
21 Round for Christmas plays at The Hope Theatre until 18 December. Further information and booking via the below link.