If you want to write a play about rape, don’t write about reindeers

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues at Above the Stag

I was full of anticipation about this pre-emptively festive show, but rarely have I been so disappointed. In this wearyingly formulaic play, Jeff Goode tries to humorously subvert the story of Father Christmas and his reindeers. Unfortunately what we end up with is a sluggish series of vaguely related monologues with more jokes about Santa’s whip, ‘coming down the chimney’ and bum-slapping than you could ever wish for.

The actors sit on chairs in a line and recite their pieces in turn. If it’s hard for the audience not to zone out, it must be even harder for the actors, who’ve had to endure this predictable farce who knows how many times. Father Christmas has been partaking of some unsavoury antics with the reindeers, and Rudolph’s taken it hard – so hard, in fact, that he’s now confined to a padded cell. The idea has potential. Sadly the play has not.

The characters are necessarily superficial: Dasher is petulant, Cupid is gay and Dancer is dippy. The actors are good, but there’s just no drama. It’s not easy to work out why one monologue follows the next, and there’s nothing to excite or incite anyone. Not even the most capable performers could redeem this limp script.

For a Christmas show, Goode ends on an oddly mock-sombre note. We hear Vixen speak last of all, and see her well up as she talks about how she suffered at the hands of Father Christmas. It’s not funny and it’s not poignant. Why did no one ever tell Goode that if he wanted to make a serious point about sexual abuse he shouldn’t use reindeers as the vehicle for his message?

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