Edinburgh Fringe 2014
This sole play follows Tom, played by Sion Pritchard, as he is confronted by the ghosts of his past when he returns home to Swansea for Christmas. Forced to face his demons, he attempts to rescue his family and his future.
Last Christmas is a solo show played out on a bare stage with no set or props. The tone is confessional as Tom, played, begins by frankly admitting to us that he can be a bit of a prat and embarks on his story of returning home to Swansea for Christmas. We go via a difficult moment with his girlfriend, the office party, the train journey and a little straying into the local pub on arrival back in Wales.
Both writer, Matthew Bulgo and actor, Sion Pritchard, are Welsh and the lyricism of the Welsh comes through in every line. The language is down to earth but rich in imagery with unexpected choices of simile and metaphor that had the audience chuckling from the start.
Pritchard’s performance as Tom was confident, assured and held the audience throughout. In addition to Tom he slipped easily into a myriad of other characters with an easy mastery of a range of accents – including subtle regional differences in the Welsh accents. He has great comic timing and the story embraces delightful observational comedy as well as real heartbreak and it is a measure of his skill that we chuckled at times and were utterly still at others.
The use of the present tense contributes to the sense of being in the moment, experiencing Tom’s journey as well as gradually revealing to us the reason for the journey, the reason he hasn’t been back since last Christmas.
With one exception every bit of the script worked for its place in the story. The exception was several references to Tom having a beard – Pritchard doesn’t have a beard and the existence of an imaginary one didn’t seem to contribute to moving the story forward. However, that is a minor quibble about an otherwise very strong piece of writing.
Although completely absorbed I wanted Pritchard to make use of more of the stage, much of the show is delivered from the centre and there is scope to spread the action a little more without losing any of the power of the piece.
Overall, this is a life affirming story of a journey, both literal and metaphorical, towards an understanding of self. It is built from the mundane details of everyday life, but rich in understanding of how we deal with, and face, adversity.