Being one of 11, yes, 11 productions of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol’, at least ‘Ghosted’ is self-aware enough to subtitle itself as ‘Another F***ing Christmas Carol’. Created by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper – formerly responsible for the cult gay pantomimes at Above the Stag Theatre – this shameless retelling is brought into the modern age by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper at The Other Palace’s Studio.
As expected, this adults-only version of the story is a lot. Scrooge is a cruel, borderline homophobic, letting agent and housing manager in modern-day London. She’s on a crusade to make everyone’s lives miserable, fucking over her nephew – the show’s Tiny Tim character – in the process, before being visited on Christmas Eve by three spirits. The twist is, they’re all queer, so they mercilessly read her and drop in the occasional joke about fisting other ghosts – which I don’t remember from the original text.
It’s a riot at points, with only four actors (Natalie Boakye, Christopher Lane, Liam McHugh and Nikki Biddington) juggling the roles of countless characters. Thus encouraging gags about them all ‘mucking in’ or pointing out how Scrooge's house looked similar to her office. Moments of self-deprecating humour such as this got a rapturous response. As did Lane’s trio of ghosts, all of whom had a loveable, hammy chaos to them.
It reminded me very much of the kind of ‘Drag Race’ humour that basic sorts like myself enjoy, with jokes about how the Ghost of Christmas past always comes first, or how one of the actors is distractingly fit. With Britney's Christmas song playing in the intermission, it was obvious that the play knew its audience well.
And yes, it’s also kind of bad. But, I think that’s the point. You don’t buy a ticket to a play called ‘Another F***ing Christmas Carol’ expecting to see ‘Othello’. However, some of the one-liners needed another looking at. There was a particular line about Matt Hancock that fell flat, one on pronouns that felt like it was punching down, and one female character talking about a drunk boss squeezing her leg, ‘that’s the last time I work for my uncle,’ just not feeling right.
Still, moments of pure silliness, like lobbing snow out of pockets and over the set every time someone said ‘it’s Christmas!’ continued to keep things feeling lighthearted. The observational quips on gay culture (poppers were pulled out, sex parties were mentioned) were astute and always triggered a response. And as someone who isn’t keen on musicals, the rewritten Christmas carols with lines such as, 'Some other cunt can wrap the present fa la la’ were very enjoyable. Snaps to them, Dickens would probably laugh at it too.