Silly season spirit

Christmas Actually (The Little Red Company)

La Boite Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre

December 5 – 8

As Act React’s “Love/Hate Actually” recently revealed, the Christmas-themed Richard Curtis film “Love Actually” is a contentious one. It seems that everyone has an opinion because come December time it seems that is always all around with its ten interconnected love stories told over five weeks leading up to Christmas.

As a concert cabaret show inspired by the film’s soundtrack, “Christmas Actually” begins aptly with the reappropriated ‘Love is all Around’, complete with that attempt to squeeze an extra syllable into the fourth line. It’s a somewhat slow start, but by the time the audience becomes the brass bit of ‘All You Need to Love’, it is clear that its festive spirit is going to be contagious.

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Its headliner, Naomi Price is a generous performer, allowing both band members (Mik Easterman, Scott French, Andrew Johnson, and Michael Manikus) and singers alike their own opportunities to shine in share of the film’s iconic music. In particular, fellow “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” alumnus Stefanie Caccamo haunts Dido’s ‘Here with Me’ with her lingering, vulnerable vocals. Luke Kennedy is every bit the part in Santana’s ‘Smooth’ and in Tom Oliver’s talented hands ‘White Christmas’ has never sounded better.

Meanwhile, the simple sincerity of Joni Mitchell’s serene ‘Songbird’, is a wonderful showcase of Price’s voice. Even more enthralling is her reverential and plaintive version of Mitchell’s heartbreaking ‘Both Sides Now’, echoing Emma Thompson’s beautiful play of the scene in the film and moving many in the audience to both tears and then mid-show standing ovation. The mature sounds of its bittersweet sincerity, are not only captivating, but also serve to showcase Price’s vocal versatility alongside her upbeat soar of schmaltzy sing-a-long seasonal staples like Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’.

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With “Christmas Actually” there is no need to think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport to cast any gloom aside; its joy is all around. The show is full of fun and humour, often courtesy of Price’s wicked sense of humour and quick wit in interacting with the audience and shift into seemingly surprising segues. And then of course, there is also a perfectly choreographed ‘Hugh Grant’ dance number, an energetic nativity play lobster and an on-point Carols in the Domain parody, complete with ‘appearance’ of an array of Australian musical talent.

As past experience has shown, the little red company’s shows are defined by their balance of whimsy, sentiment and comical commentary and “Christmas Actually” is no exception. The brainchild of Price and Adam Brunes is the ultimate silly-season starter, crafted to crescendo to joyous celebration of the Christmas spirit that not even the bah-humbugiest of humans can resist. And once it is over (all too soon), you will bounce out in jubilant memory of its charm, knowing that no Spotify Christmas ride-home playlist will do it justice (#wetried).

Photos c/o – Dylan Evans 

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