Nick Mohammed, who wrote tonight’s book and lyrics, is a familiar face to many of us. I think the internet might know him more from Ted Lasso, but to me he’s Mr. Swallow – a ridiculous genius who might be one of the cleverest people alive, not to mention one of the silliest. Mohammed is bringing this annoying man-child to us lucky folks in the West End this month. A Christmas Carol-Ish… By Mr. Swallow is a madman’s attempt to put on his festive vanity show that, naturally, goes awry.
Mr. Swallow is joined in this riotous production by co-stars played by other comedic actors from British TV. David Elms plays Mr. Goldsworth, Mr. Swallow’s link to reality, rolling his eyes and bringing him down to earth; Jonathan is the young actor roped in to play Rudolph and lug around bits of the set, played by Kieran Hodgson; and Rochelle Kelly is the sequined lounge singer, understudy to the understudy’s understudy, but undoubtedly a star in this show, played by Sarah Hadland.
Even just on paper it looks like a great line-up, and the reality is exactly what you’d expect, if not better. There’s even a mysterious cameo from the voice of God by the unnamed but recognisable voice of David Schwimmer (surprising at first, but he and Mohammed do star in comedy show Intelligence together), which had none of the awkward pauses that usually come from a recording interacting with live performers. The colourful set and costumes, both by Fly Davis, end up becoming surprisingly intricate, and an integral part of moments of humour, amplifying the ability of the cast to do their thing.
Mohammed has written a silly festive romp that could not be funnier if it tried. The writing is excellent, with jokes of all kinds hitting consistently from excellently created characters. It’s quick witted with room for slow and silly, both crazy and sweet, and wildly funny throughout. With an excellent cast like this you can expect perfect timing for every note to land where it should, and that’s exactly what you get. Speaking of notes, the quartet carries four-part harmony unpredictably well in Oliver Birch’s excellent songs. But the (literally) unsung hero throughout is Music Director Honor Halford-MacLeod who underpins each moment with skilful underscore, carrying the songs where they need to be.
Mohammed has created an evening full of charm, which on the surface looks a bit haphazard but is intricately pieced together. As long as you’re not expecting to go and experience a faithful re-telling of A Christmas Carol, you’re all good – but looking at the cast I think you’d be as crazy as Mr. Swallow to expect anything other than hilarity.
Written by: Nick Mohammed
Music by: Oliver Birch
Directed by: Matt Peover
Produced by: Owen Donovan for Berk’s Nest
Set and Costume Design by: Fly Davis
Musical Direction by: Honor Halford-Macleod
A Christmas Carol-ish plays at Soho Theatre until 23 December. Further information and bookings can be found here.