dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Sydney Clause versus Shirley Holmes
Terry Deary's Horrible Histories have proved to be a real winner for Birmingham Stage Company. Now they move on from Vile Victorians and Terrible Tudors to a Christmas romp through the centuries.
Horrible Christmas tells the story of Watson Williams a boy who on Christmas Eve sneaks downstairs and opens some of his presents. The next thing he knows he is visited by Sydney Clause, Santa gone bad, who steals his presents and vows to ruin Christmas for everyone.
Watson knows he needs to take action and who should come to the rescue by Shirley Holmes.
With puns galore and lots of dashing through history, the intrepid duo chase Sydney Clause as he attempts to influence Charles Dickens to write a gloomy Christmas Carol, to hold back The Restoration and to thwart St Nicholas in his gift giving.
Tom Gillies is a charming Watson while Erika Poole plays for laughs as Holmes. James Earl Adair is a pantomime baddy as Clause while his sidekick Rudolph is played by Jim Low.
Tom Jude, Mimi Edwards, Kathy Withers and Adam Anderson take all the other roles jumping across the centuries with aplomb.
Directed by BSC's actor/manager Neal Foster the show never lets up pace and depends on plenty of audience participation.
Jacqueline Trousdale's designs are not overly intricate but easily take us back and forth between countries and centuries.
Horrible Christmas falls somewhere between comedy and pantomime – there is plenty of slapstick humour and a few rude jokes. But it also has its educative side as we learn how Cromwell banned Christmas and how Father Christmas used to be dressed in green.
Different ages will respond to different aspects of the show but it is hard not to be entertained by its energy and humour.
Presented by Birmingham Stage Company and Derby Theatre, Horrible Christmas plays Birmingham Old Rep Theatre until January 17. Click on www.birminghamstage.com for more information.