Last Christmas ****
Written by Matthew Bulgo
Starring Sion Pritchard
Directed by Kate Wasserberg
For a lot of people, Christmas is more bitter than sweet, with loved ones who are no longer around missed more amid the happy chaos of the usual celebrations. It's a time we build ourselves up so much to enjoy that, often, it's a disappointment when it finally comes around (especially the staff Christmas do). And a time when, custom tells us, we should be with all our loved ones, but where distance and circumstance often pull us away from those we want to be with.
Matthew Bulgo's one-man play explores the hard hitting realities of life that we like to pretend won't happen; the ones we ignore hoping they'll go away and, against a Christmas backdrop, the pain and tension of this exploration intensifies. Despite the occasional cliche, Bulgo's debut is well written with great belly jiggling, guffaw inducing rants book-ending beautiful, stark, emotional moments that are thoroughly engaging, keeping the audience going and enjoying through each rise and fall. The language is striking too, both in its realism and its imagery; the descriptions of moments through camera angles encourage the audience to imagine it this way, just as the main character does, whilst adding to his slightly geeky (but mostly 'average Joe') persona.
Sion Pritchard's delivery is, quite frankly, stunning. He is so deeply immersed in the character's tight but loosening grip of emotions that it would be hard now to imagine anyone else in the role. The words sound like speech more than monologue, and his comic timing is spot on. He manages the harder moments with skill and a slowness that give credit to director, Kate Wasserberg who has clearly grasped the grief and anger and confusion of the character and moulded it into something manageable and interesting. His use of voice, of accents is impressive and add to the enjoyment and dynamics of each 'scene' as he describes it, from the prissy bitch at work to the beer chuggers back home in Swansea; his delivery allows the audience to feel and live the tension themselves.
A simplistic set, with the occasional, accidental twinkling snowflake reminding us of the time of year, lets us focus on him alone, and this is just what the play needs. Time and space to breathe and live.
One-man plays can fill you with trepidation; let this one fill you with the love, sadness and the sweet melancholy of Christmas.
Last Christmas is at Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2 December 13th-15th, 7.30pm
Tickets: £12 - Sherman Box Office 029 2064 6900