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December 7, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Christmas Indoors

Christmas Indoors
Written by Paul Rothwell
Directed by Paul McLaughlin

At Bats
Dec 4 – 13

Reviewed by Jackson Coe

Tension and unease underline Paul Rothwell’s latest play, showing at Bats this December. Christmas Indoors comes across as a farcical comedy, but looking deeper we can see a commentary on the change and dissipation of the family unit, where the untimely disappearance of one member shows that she means much more in absence than she does in presence.

There is definitely something haunting about Rothwell’s plays; New Zealand’s early cinema of unease is always brought to mind. In Christmas Indoors, the eldest daughter of the family, Trisha (played by Sophie Hambleton), is missing and presumed dead. Her sudden return forces her family to assess where life has taken them since her disappearance. This plot device is an intriguing, if cruel, means for Rothwell to force his characters to take stock of their past and present, even if we have seen him use this same trick before in plays such as Deliver Us.

The actors all seem much more comfortable playing this show for laughs than anything else. Kate McGill is great as the jealous sister Chelsea, a character who has finally been given the opportunity to step out from her sister’s shadow. Chelsea attempts to sink her claws into Simon, played by Hadleigh Walker, a young man who has had an obsession with Trisha.

Trisha’s disappearance has also strongly affected her parents, played by Alistair Browning and Rachel More, who have separated as a result. Both performers are comfortable on stage, but More in particular enacts one of the most sincere speeches in the entire play when she describes how she dealt with the disappearance of Trisha. Corrie, the dottery and eccentric Grandmother, is played by Irene Wood with a quirky edge which is a joy to watch.

But the problem with the play is that despite its haunting story, I didn’t really feel convinced. I found it hard to believe that Trisha had really been tied up in a basement for a year and half when she barely seemed fazed, and the horror aspect that the play needed to really sharpen the production didn’t have the opportunity to come through amidst the thickness of the humour. Overall, a darker mood was needed to make this show a complete success.

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