In the headlong rush towards the Yuletide, humongous numbers of our little darlings are no doubt frantically writing their letters to Santa in order to define their consumer requirements. TVs, iPads, iPhones, and other electronic goodies will probably head-up the lists. But not for Holly Finnegan. She's had it with toys and such like. All she really wants for Christmas is to find her real Dad. And she's fed up of asking Santa each year to deliver him. This year, though, things are going to be different, because she's devised a cunning ploy to achieve her ambition. Basically, she's going to kidnap Santa and force him to find her Dad for her. The plan calls for such useful devices as a mega-large packet of crisps, some glue, a waste bin, an extra large measure of scotch and some electric shock therapy.
There are several key characters in this inventive and endearing story, including a Santa (David Sterne) who's desperate to retire, his bumbling side-kick son called Bumblehole (Tm Godwin), and Teddy, Holly's teddy bear and constant companion, who turns into something approaching a demon when a spot of magic goes wrong.
'Get Santa' isn't a traditional panto – though the storyline has the familiar bizarre logic of that genre. No, it's more of a comedy drama (more comedy than drama), and moreover it's new, different and overall rather enticing. As with panto, writing for this kind of mixed audience – parents and their offspring – is a tough call because you have to find something to keep the grown-ups amused as well as the kids. But Anthony Neilson's script manages to satisfy on both counts. I've seen a couple of kids' Christmas shows in recent years in which the use of suggestive innuendo left me wondering how anyone would dare take their kids to see them. Nothing so excessive here, though the storyline stretches the imagination of all members of the audience. But that's how it should be, of course.
Imogen Doel makes her professional debut as ten year-old Holly in this off-beat romp through Christmas. And what an excellent debut it turns out to be. Dressed in bumblebee sweater and matching yellow wellies, Ms Doel easily convinces us she's 15 years or so less than her true chronological age, presenting us with a girl who has worldly wisdom and the intelligence to plan, yet still young enough to believe in Santa and the possibility of toys coming to life. A captivating performance.
There are some creative ideas here which make for a novel kind of experience with which to treat the kids. Though there's quite a bit of repetition in the second half (deliberately so, I should add), the show seemed to enthrall the younger members of the audience. Eavesdropping on the family sitting next to me, the verdict seemed to be that the most likeable character was Bernard, Holly's step-dad who just happens to be … a dog. Well, I did say there were some bizarre aspects to this tale! Great fun, though.