Paul Sinha: Last Christmas, Soho Theatre Upstairs

Paul Sinha’s latest warm and self-deprecating comedy show brightens a London in August that’s normally depleted of top-flight comedians

In August, most British comedians move up to Edinburgh. It’s a huge part of the comedy year – several comedians will spend the months preceding to try out their new material and hone it, deliver it once a night at the Fringe, and then spend the next few months reusing that material wherever they can until it’s time to start the cycle again.
Paul Sinha has, in the past, done a similar pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe. Being a renowned sports fanatic, though, he chose to forego that experience this year in order to attend the London Olympics. And that means that, in a month where London comedy is usually running on depleted stock, we get his new show, “Last Christmas”.

Now the last time I saw Sinha live was at Comedy Camp, back when the bar on Archer Street that is now an identikit wine bar was a gay venue called Barcode and had regular comedy nights every Tuesday. This was probably at least ten years ago now, but Sinha’s relaxed, self-deprecating warmth hasn’t changed.

Introduced by a cheesy acoustic version of Wham!’s Yuletide hit, Sinha – an inveterate quizzer, ranked 20th in the UK and now a regular on ITV1’s The Chase – treats us to some trivia about the pop tune, before revealing that has no basis for the rest of the show: instead, it is about his own last Christmas, during which he found himself joining his family on a jeep trip through the Himalayas and genuinely thought he was going to die.

What follows is an exploration of what is necessary to have led a satisfying life, and around that hang various anecdotes from Sinha’s own life.

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The Christ of Coldharbour Lane, Soho Theatre

Editor’s Rating

Oladipo Agboluaje’s new satire, set on the streets of south London, manages to transcend some of its more obvious stereotypes to provide an often hilarious, and often profound, snapshot of modern London.

Newly released ex-con Omo (Jimmy Akingbola) starts working with a Christian outreach organisation, but sees himself more as a new Messiah than a mere foot soldier. The people he meets aren’t interested in spirituality, though, but quick fixes for whatever ails them at the time.

The remainder of the small cast conjure up a busy, populous Brixton, full of caricatures that work because of the rich vein of humour throughout. Mark Monero and Javone Prince, in particular, excel in bringing many different archetypes to life, often effortlessly switching between recurring characters in front of the audience’s eyes. But it is Dona Croll as pole dancer Mary Maudlin who produces the performance of the evening.

Director Paulette Randall, with designer Libby Watson, recreates Coldharbour Lane in front of a huge backdrop of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The painting provides an additional, apt metaphor for the descent into chaos and revolution triggered by Omo’s actions.

The use of handheld video, incorporated into the painted backdrop, works less well, and at times distracts from the onstage action. And while the closing scenes of the play, which veer away from its humorous nature into an apocalyptic vision of a future Britain, do not carry the same force as those set in a very recognisable present day Brixton, the overall impression is of a very funny and thought-provoking piece of original theatre.

Reviewed for The Stage

The Christ of Coldharbour Lane, Soho Theatre3Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 13:53:25Oladipo Agboluaje’s new satire, set on the streets of south London, manages to transcend some of its more obvious stereotypes to provide an often hi…