In the run up to Christmas last year, strange things were afoot at one of the railway arches in Bermondsey.
A mysterious elf had been discovered in a lock up by two dodgy dealers and was passing himself off as one of Father Christmas’s helpers.
But was he really who he said he was? That was the dilemma facing the audience at Different Breed’s anti panto, The Night Before Christmas which was staged in Gary’s Warehouse in Druid Street.
Written by Anthony Neilson the hour long show featured a cast of just four who took audiences on a journey to discover whether the elf was exactly who he said he was or just a chancer in an elf’s garb.
It was such a success that the producers of the show decided to bring it back for a second year.
“It was a bit of a no brainer really because we had such a good reaction to it last year,” says co-producer and one of the show’s stars, Tim O’Hara.
“The audiences really loved it. I think what captured peoples’ imaginations was the fact it was a bit anarchic, silly, farcical and was something a bit different to most of the other Christmas shows.
“For us too as actors it was brilliant and so much fun to do that we were really keen to have another go at it.”
The plot is simple. It’s Christmas Eve and in his Bermondsey warehouse where he keeps his hooky gear, Gary (Tim) has caught someone breaking in and is not sure what to do about it - not least because the chap in question is dressed as an elf.
In a panic he calls his mate Simon (James Kermack) and tells him to come over to the lock up immediately. In the meantime, to keep his “prisoner” (Glen Hanning) secure, Gary ties him to a chair.
The elf protests that he is innocent of all burglary charges and actually it’s just a simple misunderstanding as he just fell out of Father Christmas’s sleigh. Simon and Gary are somewhat sceptical about this and begin an interrogation in which the Elf does his best to answer the questions and convince them that he’s the real deal.
In the midst of all this in comes Cherry, a single mum who is prepared to do almost anything to get her son the perfect Christmas present - in this case a lightsaber.
As the questions become more intense the elf looks increasingly unwell and havoc ensues as Gary, Cherry and Simon decide what to do with him.
Raucous, rude and silly, it’s all a lot of fun with plenty of slapstick comedy. It’s also strictly for grown ups as there is a fair bit of adult conversation and language sprinkled throughout the show.
And as was the case last year, it’s not just about the show. Tim and the team have done their best to bring in businesses from the local area to make it more than that - so there will be plenty of pre-show entertainment with specialist drinks from The Bottle Shop and tasty treats from local food producer Arawack Catering not to mention Santa’s Grotty Hole and Mike’s Merry Quizmass. And on Saturdays there will be a post show comedy set with different comedians each week.
“As well as the show being so successful last year, it was a really great way to bring in and support some of the local businesses,” says Tim.
“The Bottle Shop was brilliant and wanted to come back - we had a lot of lovely comments from people who popped in to try some of the local beers. And the food was fantastic too so we were keen to bring that element back again this year.
“The comedy nights too were really successful and we are delighted that we’ve brought that back.
“But this year we’ve upped the ante a bit as we also thought it would be a great place for people to have an office party. So we are also doing packages designed for just that - it’s something a bit different, coming to see a fantastic and very funny show, food and drink by local producers, a chance to meet the real Father Christmas not to mention Mike’s Merry Quizmass.
“It’s the perfect venue and entertainment for a night out with a difference and the reaction so far has been extremely positive.
“It’s going to be a riot of fun!”
The Night Before Christmas is on at Gary’s Warehouse, Druid Street, Bermondsey from Saturday, December 3. Tickets cost £20. Visit www.differentbreedtheatre.com for full listings and prices for office parties.