Sandi and Jenifer Toksvig shake things up a bit at the Globe with a cheery and engaging Christmas show – ★★★★
Christmas at the (Snow) Globe is a terrific team effort, in which the audience is very much involved. This is panto, but a whole lot more immersive, for we are not just reactive to the festive folly, but a key part of the collective hygge – a Danish word to describe feelings of coziness and contentment, which is all too fitting in this warm production.
Establishing herself once again as a charming and entertaining host, Sandi (QI and The Great British Bake Off) and her crew welcome us with open arms to her Christmas show, but someone didn’t get the memo. Walking onstage expecting another performance of Shakespeare is the actor Robin Goodfellow (Stella Duffy), who in his embarrassment and frustration steals a magic star from Snowdrop (Sophie Trott), the Globe’s very own Christmas fairy.
In keeping with the show’s interactive, hands-on nature, the absence of Snowdrop’s magic leads the cast and the audience to search for simple pleasures that spark the joy of Christmas, or that one Christmas ‘moment’. There’s sign language, beautiful carol singing from the London LGBTQ+ Fourth Choir and a fun interval activity which sees audience members link up with each other. All of the festivities are anchored around the sense of community and companionship which works so wonderfully in the Globe’s intimate venue.
Yet as the villain, Goodfellow creates a slight ‘Shakespeare vs Christmas’ vibe to the production, with Duffy gently digging at the pompous and exhaustive language the Bard uses. Sandi’s long lost and ‘identical’ twin, Sahdi (Tony Jawardena), enters reciting Hamlet before giving up; The Ghost of Hamlet’s father (enthusiastically played by creative BSL interpreter Becky Barry, who is integrated into the show) crosses herself before having to translate a complex passage of Shakespeare; and arguably the most cognitively challenging Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas, is given a characteristic twist. The latter works well, however, and a line about being pursued off-stage by a bear is a roaring success in terms of audience participation.
Although I’m sure older people in the crowd may delight in the mocking of the Bard’s self-importance, for a play so celebratory – and somewhat educational – about Christmas, the Globe and more, it feels a tad out of place.
However the sprinkling of Shakespeare is just one of the many ingredients in this fine festive assortment. While co-creator Sandi may dismiss the plot as ‘thin’, subplots such as lost relatives and a blooming romance are not only smooth segways for carols, but rich in festive cheer. In search of a Christmas moment, Christmas at the (Snow) Globe produces plenty.
Christmas at the (Snow) Globe is now playing at Shakespeare’s Globe until 23 December.