We all have annoying and embarrassing relatives that do things at family gatherings which make us cringe. After watching the crazy and rambunctious mayhem that unfolds in An Awkward Family Christmas, I will never again complain about having to endure my family reunions!
Meet the extended Potts-Chambers family: a brain damaged supermodel, over-competitive, inappropriately close Aryan twins, a lesbian life partner who makes obscene pottery and a perpetually unloved stoner son who the family keeps calling Britney. And these are just some of the colorful characters! Add in a festive meal of vegemite and broccoli with a bottle cap thrown in for good measure and you have yourself one very ridiculous and extremely awkward family shindig.
Drawing inspiration from the thousands of awkward family Christmas photographs available online, An Awkward Family Christmas is an utterly insane and over-the-top slapstick comedy which presents every single awkward social and familial situation you can think of, and then some. The Outfit Theatre Company have yet again lived up to their reputation of being “New Zealand’s rowdiest theatre company” with another production that is cheeky, boisterous and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
This really is a character-centric story and the madcap dysfunctional family which we get acquainted to is portrayed superbly by a talented ensemble of performers. Jacqui Nauman is incredibly endearing as the childlike and dazed Polly while Andrew Ford’s exaggerated and comical performance of Percy’s faux disability garnered plenty of laughs.
I thought Chris Tempest brought great comedic value to the role of Winston, the lonely neighbor who desperately wants to get past the door so as not to spend Christmas alone. My favorites of the night though were Joel Herbert and Kate Vox who are perfectly cast as Keith and Keitha; the antics the two get up to individually and as a duo were so entertaining to watch.
With so much chaos and activity going on, it really was up to the actors to sell the story and they did so with great energy and charisma which is a credit to not only their acting prowess but also Ben Henson’s skilled direction. The sense of camaraderie amongst the cast is evident on stage and I thought their comedic intuition was impeccable. An unexpected heckler in the crowd ever so slightly threw them off at first but they quickly recovered and handled the ongoing extra “sound effects” like true professionals.
As the story progresses, things begin to unravel and become increasingly more ludicrous and outrageous. The many interweaving storylines start to become a little far-fetched but yet still somewhat believable within the context of this group of nutty personalities. Cutting out a storyline or two would have helped the narrative flow a little better as towards the end it did start to feel like there was a little too much going on. Overall though the script, written by award-winning playwright Thomas Sainsbury, is well crafted; it doesn’t miss a beat and is highly entertaining.
The silly season is pretty much upon us and while this may not necessarily get you in to the festive spirit, it will certainly convince you that your family is quite normal! Be prepared for a night of many cringe-worthy moments and laughs aplenty – leave your serious side at the door and go with your sense of humor in check.
The Whimsical Banana rates An Awkward Family Christmas: 4/5 bananas!
Ridiculously silly, loads of fun, and just utterly absurd!
An Awkward Family Christmas is playing at the Herald Theatre until 1st December. For tickets, click here.