All this time I’ve imagined that we have roughly the same day on Dec 25, give or take a few extra relatives, chocolate Matchsticks, garish jumpers and the size of the turkey.

And yet Chris Bush’s festive show The Last Noel at OFS proves otherwise.

Yes, on the whole we gather together in our tribes, but it’s the nuances involved that make it special, our individual eccentricities that should be noted, as celebrated with great tenderness in this ‘play with words’.

Chris took on the mantle passed on by Mike Bartlett’s Snowflake last year, to continue the tradition of the OFS adult Christmas show.

Staged by Attic, which aims to make accessible, inclusive theatre for all, it is brought to Oxford by director Jonathan Humphreys.


Dyfrig Morris as Mike. All pics by Hannah Pye

Chris’ focus on these overlooked festive family rituals is touching to an extreme, suggesting that it is these very traditions and habits that define us and keep us together, through thick and thin.

And it is the thick and thin that Chris Bush explores in The Last Noel, the play’s three characters representing the different generations.

Set in grandmother Alice’s house, Annie Wensak portrays a patient, friendly, positive soul trying to keep the ages, penchants and hang-ups of her son Mike (Dyfrig Morris) at bay with a stoic cheerfulness acutely recognisable in someone of her age.

Her grand-daughter, and Mike’s niece Tess (Anna Crichlow) are waiting for Tess’s parents to return from their shift at the hospital where they work as a doctor and paramedic, so that Christmas can begin in earnest.

Annie Wensak as Alice copyright Hannah Pye

To pass the time the trio tell stories, well known, much loved, well thumbed tales, repeated annually to appease, placate and further pad out the Christmas experience.

It is a light-hearted affair which gently prods at the silliness of yuletide – the disgustingly flavoured crisps, the over-elaborate arrangements, the difficult guest, the prickly relative, as Alice strives to keep everyone happy with a knowingly calculated nonchalance.

The original score and songs, combined with Matt Winkworth’s nostalgic piano accompaniment, only accentuates this, especially when elaborating on Mike’s nightmarish stag do retelling, Tess’ childhood memories and Alice’s lighthouse keeper tale, as we gradually learn that all is not as it should be.

Touching, immersive and funny, The Last Noel makes you look at Christmas rather differently. Story-telling at its best.

The Last Noel is at OFS, Oxford until December 23. 12+


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