The Pit, London EC2
Opened 14 December, 2007

For the past few Christmases, the Pit has hosted shows by alternative cabaret collective Duckie. In C'est Barbican!, each table of clubgoers would "buy" a selection of acts to be performed quite literally in their faces; last year, in The Class Club, a Christmas dinner varied in quality, entertainment and price according to whether you had booked as Upper, Middle or Lower Class. This year, Duckie alumni Ursula Martinez and Christopher Green have assembled a pastiche-cum-parody of that fearsome corporate ritual, the office Christmas party. On arrival, we are each assigned to a particular department: I don't know why I was placed in Corporate Social Responsibility, but I assure you that my ethnic outreach policy would not have booked the kind of Pole dancer we saw later. After 15-20 minutes of preparation from our respective cast-member "team leaders", we troop into the venue itself for the party proper.

It's an astute mixture of "turns": organised jollity involving us and our co-workers, such as a Runaround-style quiz and a hands-free Christmas-pudding-eating contest, alternate with formal acts like Green's drag alter ego C&W singer Tina C or comedian Glenn Wool as a CEO who is also a redneck hellraiser. There is a cheesy disco (warning: it includes Chris De Burgh's "Lady In Red") and, of course, a cash bar runs throughout to ensure that the proceedings and the participants alike are well oiled.

It's often hard to tell which of us are punters and which performers, which is a testimony to the company's ability to field whatever the evening throws at them, from discreet smartass injections to off-your-face inanity. To get more analytical, it is also a wonderful affirmation of the communal live nature of theatre: here, the content of the evening really is shaped by all of our individual and collective input, with Cal McCrystal's production simply providing the template into which we add our own details. It's probably best to go with one or two friends – neither entirely alone nor in a pre-defined group which would let you stand apart from the dynamics of the evening. Audience-participation-phobics will loathe it; those prepared to cut a wee bit loose as they would at the real thing will have a ball. Speaking of which, thank heaven there isn't a photocopier around.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2007

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage