Babushka Regifted (Little Match Productions)
Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre
December 14 – 17
While its set is adorned with festive baubles, an elf on the shelf and a giant advent calendar, the ‘ding, dong, here comes the bells’ arrival of the three wise women of Babushka (Judy Hainsworth, Laura Coutts and Alicia Cush) signposts that “Babushka Regifted” is very much an anti-Christmas Christmas show. Soon thereafter, ‘Wake Me Up When
September December Ends’ cements the show’s sentiment as an 18+ celebration of everything we love to hate about the holly jolly season.
The trio of performers is joined in their irreverence by accomplished jazz trio Jake Bristow (Musical Director along with Alicia Cush) and the Baby Cheeses band and, after the show’s initial numbers, things settle into a comfortable banter that moves us between segments. As with previous Babushka shows, there is plenty of audience participation, this time through Grinchy games organised around the share of Festivus airing of Christmas grievances and about the worst ever received presents, which works well in the intimate venue of Metro Art’s New Benner Theatre.
Variety ensures that “Babushka Regifted” is a fun-filled ride for everyone. The eclectic mix of musical genres includes features of some classic seasonal standards from The Pogues and Spinal Tap, however, a Madonna mashup also sits comfortably alongside Nick Cave’s classic ‘Red Right Hand’, reappropriated as a warning about Santa lap sitting. In all instances, the musical arrangements from Cush and Bristow serve as perfect vehicles for the slick vocals, quirky comedy and unapologetic sass that have come to characterise the Matilda Award winning cabaret trio’s work.
This is not a santa-mental show in any way. There’s not a Mariah song to be heard. And the familiar numbers that do make appearance are not as we usually would know them. The problematic ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is amusingly shifted in focus to tell the tale of Hainsworth’s obviousness to her prowling of Bristow, yet it still allows us opportunity to appreciate her consummate vocals. And the three songstresses harmonise together beautifully in a ‘We Three
Kings Queens’ accompaniment to the story of travel to the real Christmas charcuterie Mecca. And in their serene share ‘Walking in the Air’ from UK Christmas Day staple, the enduring animated classic “The Snowman”, their voices blend beautifully (with lovely accompaniment especially from Bristol) as the trio of singers literally bounce off each other in full snowman regalia.
A sleigh-the-patriarchy theme adds another layer to things as they sing from a
hymn him her book with holy PowerPoint accompaniment. Clever lyrics give carols like ‘Deck the Halls’ and alike a rework, and then there is ‘Good King Queen Wenceslas”, because who is Stephen exactly and more importantly, who is cooking his feast!
With all that is has to offer, “Babushka Regifted” may well be your new favourite festive tradition. Unlike the silly season, however, these Babushka shenanigans will be over in a flash so you will need to don your dodgy Xmas jumpers and get along quickly to experience what is a rollicking adults-only romp laden with tinsel and tunes, especially if you want to find out why Laura’s fruit cake brings all the boys to the yard.
Photo – c/o Penny Challen