December 6, 2013


a play by Jeff Goode
Directed by Caitlin McNaughton
Presented by Counterpoint

at Taste Merchants, 36 Stuart St, Dunedin
From 5 Dec 2013 to 7 Dec 2013

Reviewed by Kimberley Buchan, 6 Dec 2013

There are some supremely irritating Christmas traditions, some of which are Christmas decorations going on sale in October, about eight carols being repeated ad nauseum where ever you go, and the theatres rounding off their season with light hearted holiday fare.

I applaud Counterpoint and director Caitlin McNaughton for putting on a non-sappy play at this time of the year. It is possible to have nourishing thought-provoking theatre no matter what celebrations are happening at the time. And thought-provoking it is. It is a raw, visceral, wrenching script full of actors with a frantic gleam in their eyes as they nearly vibrate off the stage in their effort to communicate their perspective.

This is a minimalist production. Everything is pared down. You may want to bring a cushion depending on the style of chair you end up in. This approach does allow the script to stand on its own. It is successful due mainly to the quality of the actors.

The performers are some of Counterpoint's top ranking members: Luke Agnew, Danny Goodwin, Ben McCarthy, Nell Guy, Orion Carey-Clark, Abby Howells, Trubie-Dylan Smith and Rachel Chin. Although they are alone on the stage they are able to build relationships and develop each other's characters through the different perspectives they offer. Angus McBryde's guitar and Sydney Lehman's smokey tones give the audience the occasional musical respite.

The traditional concept of Christmas is subverted as horrific crimes are related to the audience through eight monologues. These are told from the viewpoint of Santa's reindeer. Every now and then there is a line that is slightly mistimed or an inflection that is discordant with the cadence of the speech but this will undoubtedly be fixed in future performances.

Luke Agnew plays Dasher, a tough no nonsense deer with Jake the Muss eyes who knows more than he is willing to admit. Danny Goodwin shreds our ears with shrill hysterical laughter as the Cupid with macabre undertones and fantastic cheekbones. Ben McCarthy gives a spot on performance as the callous Hollywood. Nell Guy is a fierce breath of fresh air as Blitzen the first character to stand up for Vixen. Orion Carey-Clark brings up the level of intensity with a Comet who is struggling to reconcile his image of Santa with the betrayal that believing Vixen will represent. Abby Howells brings humour and horror to the doe Dancer. Trubie-Dylan Smith brings the mood further back down again with his heart rending portrayal of a broken father. Rachel Chin gives a transfixing performance as Vixen with an utterly human but all-too-familiar ending that we see played out all too often in the media.

These real life stories have had no discernible improvements since the play was written in 1994.

This is what theatre is supposed to be: hard-hitting performances that confront us with the parts of our society that we must fix. This is not theatre for the faint hearted. This is not a good time family Christmas show. Even though aligning such a message with a Christmas theme reinforces the tension that families come under while trying to achieve the ideal of what Christmas is supposed to be. This is theatre that will shock and should be seen.