Everyone knows the story of Santa Claus: a jolly old man who comes to spread goodwill – and, more importantly, presents – on the 24th of December every year. Since he was popularised in Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, this kindhearted elf/person (depending on who you ask), has been a mainstay in the Christmas traditions of children on both sides of the Atlantic.
Douglas Walker, however, thinks Father Christmas isn’t as innocent as he seems – there are too many inconsistencies, and none of it adds up. His interpretation story begins in Russia, around 1916. Grigori Rasputin is trying to escape the men whose assassination attempt he avoided, by crossing the border out of Russia and into Turkey. There is a bit of diplomatic back-and-forth between various countries (Walker’s Australian accent is especially good), and then some Americans at the Coca-Cola company have an idea: why not use Rasputin’s plight to their own advantage? It’s best to go and see Walker continue the story from there – he has a magnetic charisma that carries us through the entire performance effortlessly, using an armchair as his only prop.
It’s a very entertaining hour of what is, effectively, an adult fairytale – however, if you’re looking for a laugh-a-minute show, this probably won’t be it. There are some excellent puns nestled amongst the narrative, but comedy isn’t really the main focus of this piece. Instead, it’s a journey that explores one of the most beloved icons of our holiday season, tying in more and more threads of history as it goes.
Of Christmas Past is a meticulously planned and well-presented show that allows Walker to show off his abilities as a master storyteller. He flits from character to character, and era to era, without breaking a sweat. Just a word of warning: you may end up leaving the venue with Christmas carols stuck in your head. It’s worth it, though.