Theatre review: Christmas comes early with Holiday In My Head

Watching Holiday In My Head was like running downstairs on Christmas morning and unwrapping all of the presents under the tree.

One gift could be a standard pair of socks, another an oddly-shaped gravy boat from that kooky aunt. But each one was carefully chosen, and gifted with love.

Asylum Theatre is a new company set up earlier this year by Singapore-based American playwright and director Dean Lundquist, who also created and helmed this inaugural production.

The show was crafted as an octet of plays, all written by Lundquist and related to the Christmas season in one way or another. Some were whimsical, some sharp and observant, while others were a little darker.

It was held up by a cast of six performers, a mix of fairly established actors such as Andrew Mowatt and Seong Hui Xuan, and newcomers like Zee Wong.

What made me fall in love with the show was its wonderfully groan-inducing sense of humour, which was right up my alley. You cannot curd my enthusiasm for a Gouda pun, and cheesey comedy always leaves me feeling grate.

Aside from the usual fare (like a spoon receiving an invitation from another piece of silverware to do as her name suggests), there was an elf who quit his job because of an unsavoury title (hint: he helps to arrange and store fudge), and my personal favourite, an exhibition titled The Father, The Son And The Holy Toast, featuring a piece of bread which bears the likeness of Jesus.

Familiar threads were woven through all eight skits, and each would make cheeky references to another. There were running jokes about Alpha Bits cereal being able to predict the future, Santa Claus going on holiday in Jamaica, and a fake Louis Vuitton handbag made more than one appearance.

The difficulty with short plays is packing a beginning, middle and end neatly into 10 minutes, and Lundquist succeeded admirably with each skit.

There were some real crackers in the mix, like Holy Toast, a conversation between a schoolgirl who wants to convert to Judaism, and a priest who dips his wafer into the Communion wine a little too often. Lundquist wrote amazing dialogue, poking gentle fun at how people use religion as a tool, while at the same time creating two characters who were as funny as they were flawed.

The final play of the night, The Joy Of Solitude, also sent a chill down my spine. Based on Un Estila De Vida by Argentine writer Fernando Sorrentino, the play throws the audience into a bleak world where a man who is trapped in his own home finds himself with only his past for company. After many laughter-filled skits, it was a sombre but thought-provoking conclusion to the evening's programme.

The final skit was also boosted by actor Paul Lucas, who was the night's shining star on top of the Christmas tree. Lucas slips into characters so easily that he disappears, and his mercurial presence always draws the eye. He is also a gifted mimic, and with his wide array of sound effects, he is basically a one-man Foley studio.

The eight plays were each fantastic in isolation, and at no point did I know what to expect next. There were no turkeys, although one or two of them did seem a little like an Easter egg at Christmas dinner.

For example, Finger Food, about the sadly declining use of silverware, was a snappy standalone piece, but seemed to be an odd fit in the night's narrative.

Overall though, the set of plays did bring a lot of Christmas cheer into the chilly air of the Drama Theatre, and I am definitely looking forward to Asylum's next outing.

Holiday In My Head

Where: Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Building, Level 5, 100 Victoria Street

When: Till Sept 28, 8pm; 3pm (Sat & Sun)

Admission: $38 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)