Review: The Gift of Presents
A festive adult treat, with laughter and Christmas songs like you’ve never heard or seen them before
If you come to The Gift of Presents, at the Tobacco Factory’s beautiful new Spielman Theatre, for a quiet night of fourth-wall theatre, you’ll be in for a raucous surprise.
Upon entering, audience members are greeted by Sister Pauline Hollywood and Sister Mary Berry – or DJ Bezza – in full nun garb, playing electronic-inspired versions of festive tunes, ushering viewers into seats, bopping and shimmying, and getting the whole room into the party spirit. Because it is, after all, a party: we are all gathered to celebrate the birth of Shesus, born four days before Jesus on the Winter Solstice (as Shesus tells us herself – ‘it makes so much more sense’).
What follows is a wild celebration, including relentless audience interaction handled classily and jovially by the three performers. The audience is told to stand up, turn round, open wide, massage each other, and sing a hilarious, inappropriate, inaccurate rendition of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ (all I’ll say is it involves chocolate Yule log. A lot of it).
If this doesn’t sound like your thing, Shesus offers anyone the opportunity to leave the theatre, through double doors ominously guarded by the two Sisters with faces of comical thunder. Unsurprisingly, no one dares.
It must be an exhausting show to perform, and all three bring energy enough for the whole room. Fun, off-the-cuff comments are made about the Bristol crowd (mention of a gluten-free galaxy, an audience member’s colourful pashmina scarf described as ‘classic Bristol’), and despite it being a Tuesday night, the audience really get into it.
It’s a show full of weird little sketches, absurd premises, and line-teetering NSFW comedy. The performers are clearly committed to the material, which helps to hold the room, and enables them to dramatically shift the tone near the end of the show.
It’s an hour 15 minutes – our night ran over (perhaps because of the multiple, added-in references of it being press night). The party’s got to end sometime – and if there’s any criticism of this festive treat, it’s that some scenes could have been a little shorter and a little slicker. But for an evening of laughter and Christmas songs like you’ve never heard or seen them before, get on down.
Words: Alex Sayers
The Gift of Presents is on at the Spielman Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol until Sun 30 Dec. Recommended for 18+ years. Tickets from £12.
Spielman Theatre, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Raleigh Road, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1TF. Tel 0117 902 0344. tobaccofactorytheatres.com