Thank F*ck It's Christmas

Jude Quinn's one-man show sees Santa in mischievous mood

’Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house, no one is stirring… except for Santa. He’s coming to the end of his shift and is exhausted, Christmased-out and in need of some entertainment and sustenance.

Enter Jude Quinn’s larger-than-life bringer of gifts, dragging his half-empty sack into a silent sitting room, which has been lovingly prepared for his arrival on the stage of the Black Box in Belfast. Before departing for their beds, the incumbent family have made available a comfortable armchair, switched on the Christmas tree lights, set out a can of Coca Cola and propped a big white envelope against the wireless.

These gestures seem to please and infuriate their guest in turn. It’s been a long night, many miles have been covered behind the rear ends of those wretched reindeer and this Santa is no longer in the mood for sentimental carols, or the piety of the holy family in their crib, not to mention an endless wish list clearly addressed to him.

Here on his home turf, Quinn is a unique performer. It is a long way from Coalisland, County Tyrone to l'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, the world-famous school of physical theatre in Paris, where he trained. But Northern Ireland audiences should be delighted that he opted to make that journey and bring back the range of extraordinary skills he learned there.

 

The Lecoq style is all about wordless theatre, about making use of body and face not only to tell a story but to convey a whole subtext of emotions and motivations lurking beneath the surface.

Quinn possesses a lean, lanky frame and astonishing facial mobility, perfectly suited to European mime and movement techniques. He also has a sharp, subversive sense of the absurd, which has been a hallmark of his past work with Cahoots NI, the children's theatre company, and which here adds a whole new disturbing dimension to the standard Christmas fare.

With our stages currently awash with buxom dames, wise-cracking jesters, swashbuckling princes and vapid princesses, how refreshing to spend 45 minutes in an entirely other version of the festive season.

This mischievous little piece is sophisticated and adult, replacing the traditional cuddly image of Santa with a rancid old geezer, who spies sneaky sexual connotations in just about everything and has no scruples about removing the wrapping from a bottle of Bushmills beneath the tree and sharing it around.

Resplendent in a fat suit – within which Quinn’s head and body seem to take on independent lives of their own – this beady-eyed character preys not only on the innocent, absent family but also on several hapless audience members, who are visibly freaked by his lascivious invitations to sit upon his knee and receive some highly dubious-looking presents.

But when he focuses his attention onto a little blonde-haired doll, the laughter turns to the uneasy, nervous variety. Relying on very few words – though none at all may be preferable – there is a mixture of glee and danger in this singular performance, which skilfully sends-up the predictable and leads down a road that we are reluctant to take but helpless to resist.

Next on Quinn's agenda is a new solo piece of bouffon theatre entitled The Imp, due to be premiered in February 2015. Judging by the reactions to his bouffon Santa, that opening night can’t come soon enough.