REVIEW: How to Catch A Krampus (Sink the Pink) (Pleasance Theatre) ★★★

As the festive season draws ever closer, theatregoers looking for an alternative to Dickens, elves and nativities may find themselves drawn to Sink The Pink’s latest offering, “How To Catch A Krampus”, currently playing at the Pleasance Theatre until 23rd December.

Written and directed by Ginger Johnson, who also heads up the cast, “Krampus” (as I shall refer to it from now on, to save my fingers) is a unique blend of cabaret, pantomime and gothic tale, with a story that includes everything from horned creatures, creepy children on bicycles, disembodied voices and, perhaps most terrifying of all, morris dancing.

With its tongue firmly in its cheek, “Krampus” is played for comedy rather than being in any way chilling or frightening (although a loud thunder clap and sudden plunge into darkness did get a decent scream out of the audience on Press Night). Still, leave the kids at home for this one unless you want them to learn a few new words to impress Granny with over Christmas dinner.

“Krampus” is very much a show of two halves – when the story is moving along, it’s an enjoyable peace of festive hokum, thanks largely to the energy and performance of its leads. However, the plot regularly breaks with an assortment of random sketch scenes which start to grate; the carolling and opera scenes go on too long, as does the morris-dancing, and none of them are particularly funny. The scenes are generally bookmarked by the drawing of a large red curtain across the stage (which gets clunky at times, although unavoidable given the staging restrictions), and your heart does start to sink whenever the curtain starts coming across, as to what the next random skit will be. The lighting and staging, however, are remarkable given the space.

Musically the show is also a little uneven – Johnson sings “Electricity” from Billy Elliot, which although a really strong performance, doesn’t really fit, likewise with Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around” performed by Mairi Houston, whose vocals sadly don’t quite hit the song’s higher notes (although she does well during the group numbers). Lavinia Coop gives the most memorable albeit unexpected of performances, with her version of Rihanna’s ‘S&M’. If you’ve ever wondered what a performance of that song would be like if given by one of the Golden Girls, now’s your chance (that’s not an insult, I adored those ladies).

The cast are the show’s main strength – Ginger Johnson is clearly a seasoned performer, developing a strong rapport with the audience and building a really positive energy. Lavinia Coop also does brilliantly, her unique halfway-house between camp and deadpan going down a storm. And all of the leads deserve a standing ovation purely for their madcap, chaotic version of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” which closes the show, and nearly turns into a four-body pile up. Bonkers, and brilliant.

“Krampus” means well, and the audience seemed to lap it up. As a refreshing alternative to the army of saccharine Christmas shows that will be opening soon it deserves to do well, and with a few tweaks (mostly the unnecessary “sketch” scenes taken out), it’s an enjoyable couple of hours. I just don’t need to see any more scenes about opera or morris-dancing for quite some time.

Reviewed by Rob Bartley
Photo: Ali Wright

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