If there’s one thing Auckland’s Basement Theatre is good at, it’s subversive drama. If there’s a second, it just might be Christmas.
Opening last week, Santa Claus is the Basement’s 2017 Christmas show. Not only is it a bloody good time, the annual show is the Basement’s only fundraiser, with profits going towards their artistic development programme.
Presented this year by A Slightly Isolated Dog (Don Juan, Jekyll & Hyde) and featuring a special guest each night, Santa Claus follows the sexy pseudo-French group through multiple Christmases and explores the concept of naughty versus nice. Having seen A Slightly Isolated Dog’s previous two Auckland shows, it’s clear they have a signature style. Think audience interaction, surprise engagements, copious sound effects and well-crafted fight scenes.
As much as I’m obsessed with A Slightly Isolated Dog, when I saw they were sticking with this style for the Christmas show, I was a little concerned that I was in for a repetitive night. However, the festive and amplified audience interaction, combined with the original plot of Santa Claus, quickly squashed any worries. Unlike their previous shows, Santa Claus isn’t based on any well-known text, allowing more room for gags from the cast. While this means it’s not a show for the more brooding among us, if you’re just looking for some light-hearted laughs you’ll be totally satiated.
My friend was pretty nervous about the audience interaction that was sure to come, and I had to reassure her by saying that A Slightly Isolated Dog had previously tip-toed the line of too much quite expertly. Turns out I didn’t know what we were in for. Santa Claus took this element to a completely new level, with audience members not only being pulled up on stage, but there was even a cast/viewer make-out session. Luckily, the audience on the night I attended was completely into this – and it was the middle-aged dude in front of us who turned a mistletoe peck into something a whole lot more with actor Andrew Paterson.
The guest star of Santa Claus should also not be forgotten. Rose Matafeo graced the stage the night we attended, delivering plenty of one liners all the while in a state of apparent confusion. I quite like the way Santa Claus incorporates its guests – almost as viewers themselves. Matafeo seemed as surprised as we were at the strange plot of the show, allowing for genuine reactions. I imagine this would be important on the other nights, as not all the guest stars are comedians or actors themselves – think Maungakiekie MP Chlöe Swarbrick – so I imagine a more chilled role is beneficial to all involved.
Santa Claus boasts a fantastic cast, with Hayley Sproull, Jack Buchanan and Andrew Paterson all pulling their own weight. However, Susie Berry deserves a special shout-out. She perfectly delivered the moody Mrs Claus and was the backbone of the show, linking gags and driving the loose plot.
December is a crazy busy time but Santa Claus is a crazy fun show. Not only a great way to support one of Auckland’s best theatre spots, a ticket to Santa Claus is a guaranteed good time. Definitely worth seeing somewhere between manic present shopping and summer BBQs.
Santa Claus shows at Basement Theatre until 20th December. Tickets are available here.