The Covent Garden Top Secret Comedy Club is about as hidden as you can get. Below a restaurant on Drury Lane, I walked straight past it before having to consult my phone for directions. When you finally get inside you’re greeted by quite honestly some of the friendliest front of house staff in London. You’re then welcomed into the bar with relatively cheap drinks for central London and a free ping pong table to enjoy before the show starts. With all of this in mind, I was expecting a really good evening. Unfortunately the venue was the best part about it.
This is Not a Christmas Play, is like it says, not a play about Christmas. It’s barely even a play, lasting only 45 minutes with very little content. Reading the programme, the writers and director seem extremely passionate about the whole idea. And I can’t blame them, the concept is great. Having a play with festive links without being cheesy and annoying is brilliant. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t executed very well.
It’s often nice to see a show when no actor stands out. Often this means they’re all as good as each other. Unfortunately nobody stands out in this show because they’re equally as bad as each other. Whether this isn’t their usual type of comedy, or they weren’t connecting with the script either, something just wasn’t right. The relationship between the characters seems fake, the lines are delivered woodenly and the timing of jokes is all over the place. To be fair to them, it does have some funny elements. A particularly interesting ‘fight scene’, which is mostly funny because of how awful it is and Mary the ‘pregnant’ lady who gives birth (very seasonal), but that’s about it. There are a few funny moments; you just have to sit through the unfunny ones to get to them. For a comedy club, it really isn’t that funny.
The storyline (if you can call it that) is predictable and dull. It’s completely lost and thus so are the jokes. The actors do work well with the staging, using the on stage/off stage to their advantage to give the impression of a larger area. Aided by the sound effects and music, it holds the show together preventing it from being completely disastrous. If you do decide to see it though, get there early as the seats are unallocated and all on the same level as each other and the stage, meaning you’re constantly ducking in between heads to try and catch the action.
Maybe it was first night nerves. Or maybe I just didn’t understand the jokes. But you can tell when something isn’t great when you’re willing it to end. One man got up and left and I heard another say that if it didn’t end soon, he would also. It’s a real shame as this has the potential to be a brilliant show. A good attempt from the Top Secret Comedy Club but maybe in the future, they should just stick to the stand up.
Reviewed by Keziah Leary
This Is Not A Christmas Play is running at the Top Secret Comedy Club until 4 January 2015