9 Anti-Christmas Shows to Delight Your Inner Scrooge
Now that the Christmas season seems to be creeping into our lives as early as October, the nonstop onslaught of merriment has some people feeling personally victimized by season’s greetings. With all the persistent cheer, it makes sense that those folks who are Grinches at heart and Scrooges by choice would much rather be sitting through a twisted, brooding drama than some snowy ballet or Dickens fable.
So this season, instead of being tormented by tidings, bombarded by baubles, and harangued by holiday cheer, why not take a break from the unending joy and escape into a few of these darker offerings?
“A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter”
If you’re looking for the opposite of cheer, you have a virtual guarantee with a play that proclaims its darkness with three “verys.” This world premiere by master of black comedy Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) plunges the audience into an imagined tale of the twisted, dark life of Hans Christian Andersen. The play may make you question all of history and reality, but you’re certain to forget about the holiday stress.
Even though Christmas can be gaudy and materialistic, the holidays are still a good excuse to spend time with those you love. Natasha Gordon’s debut play “Nine Night” is decidedly un-Christmas-y as the story takes place during a nine-night wake to showcase the Jamaican ritual of mourning. At its core, however, the play highlights some of the best bits of the season: family and togetherness.
“Pinter Five” and “Pinter Six”
One of the last things you might expect to find in the work of Harold Pinter is Christmas cheer, so take a break from decked halls or sleigh bells ringing and check out one of his short plays on offer. The fifth and sixth instalments of the Pinter at the Pinter series are running over the holidays so be prepared for some dry humour, dwindling silences, and not a bit of tinsel in sight.
If you’re in the mood to escape your frantic stress from the holiday season, why not escape into someone else’s? The two central characters in the gripping psychological thriller “Switzerland” have plenty of stress to go around. Phyllis Logan delivers an unmissable performance playing the queen of thrillers herself, novelist Patricia Highsmith.
Trade in the merry Christmas festivities for the “merry murderesses of Cook County Jail.” There’s nothing like a sassy tango of killer women to put your mind off the holidays. Hurry though, “Chicago” is closing in just a few short weeks so this may be your last chance to spend the season with Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly.
Sibling disputes may seem like a hallmark of the season, but there are really none quite as brutal and bitter as those from the mind of playwright Sam Shepard. “True West” tells the story of two brothers locked in a battle to write the next best Western film, though the real stakes in this potent drama are the limits of masculinity and the true American dream.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
There are more wonderlands to see this season than the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, not the least of which being the astonishing set (and entire production) of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” now playing at the Piccadilly Theatre. Based on Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, this stage adaptation is not only stunningly designed but also thoroughly moving and not the least bit Christmas-y.
There’s nothing like a bloody Shakespeare tragedy with multiple murders to stave off the advances of holiday spirit. Christopher Eccleston (“Doctor Who,” HBO’s “The Leftovers”) plays the power-hungry king in his Royal Shakespeare Company debut alongside Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth and Edward Bennett as Macduff.
“The Woman in Black”
This season, instead of seeing 75 versions of “A Christmas Carol” with its trio of moralising ghosts, try this truly spine-tingling play with a ghost that does what its meant to — scare your socks off. “The Woman in Black” has been spooking audiences in the West End for three decades and is sure to give you a chill unrelated to the wintery weather outside.