Review: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters, Hope Theatre

“Jamie stayed and explored Peterborough, which has a Waitrose. He can’t resist a good Waitrose”

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters, you know something special is afoot. Chairs are draped with blankets and cushions, bowls of Quality Street twinkle like fairy lights, and we’re heartily greeted like old friends by the couple whose front room we’re entering. It’s a warmly convivial beginning to a warmly convivial show.

A Curmudgeon’s Guide… is based on a book by the late, lamented Guardian diarist Simon Hoggart, where he collated some of the more extreme examples of the Christmas round-up-of-the-year letter that people have received. Gently poking fun at the humblebrags and hubris they contain, Scott Le Crass has fashioned an intimate two-hander which looks lightly at that all-too-human need to share.

That it does by having hosts Kate Russell-Smith and Claire Lacey break the ice with some cracker-pulling (no, the hat didn’t fit me, they never do!) and then proceeding to read out excerpts from some of their favourite letters, mocking the random level of detail included, the superhuman accomplishments of children, the luxury vacations that all these people seem to be able to take.

And wrapped around these recitals are the delicate hints of the relationship between the two. A sadness that is at first unspoken, then as the letters they read take a poignant turn – revealing a year’s worth of bad news in some cases – their melancholy bleeding out to force them to reflect on their own lives, their own experiences. At just an hour, this is done with a light touch but still manages a gut-punching level of emotion.

Jai Morjaria’s subtle lighting changes reflect these emotional shifts well but the best thing about this production is the fact that this is a lesbian couple is incidental. It is these types of stories that are invaluable in normalising LGBT+ cultural representation and Le Crass deserves credit for taking the action to change the original heterosexual pairing of his adaptation in this way. And if a lesbian-themed show at the Hope becomes my newest Christmas tradition then hell yeah, I’m down with that.  

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 23rd December

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