Review: Hogfather

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If you’re struggling to get into the festive spirit, I would highly recommend attending Ooook! Productions’ Hogfather, a play which is the perfect combination of fantasy, dark humour, and, of course, Christmas. Set the night before the mid-winter holiday of Hogswatch, the play follows the mysterious disappearance of the Hogfather, who delivers children their presents. While the paranormal entity of Death must temporarily fill the place of the Hogfather, Death’s granddaughter, Susan, embarks on a mystical quest to find out what happened to the real Hogfather before it is too late.

What stands out the most about Hogfather is how funny it is – there is audible laughter from the audience during almost every scene which is unmistakeably due to the whole cast’s incredible comedic timing and talent. Some of the play’s funniest exchanges are between Imogen Melhuish (as Death) and Marc Twinn (as Albert) whose comedic timing and execution demonstrate great skill. The duo’s performances contrast each other in a very complementary way; the juxtaposition between Melhuish’s deadpan delivery and Twinn’s exaggerated jolly performance evokes lots of laughter from the audience and is a memorable asset of the performance.

It would be amiss not to compliment the phenomenal light design and operation which truly gives the performance a professional touch

Thea Stedman-Jones’ captivating portrayal of cool and cold-hearted assassin Teatime (pronounced “Teh-ah-tim-eh”) is brilliantly performed. Although this is predominantly a more serious character, Stedman-Jones gives excellent delivery of darkly humorous lines. Similarly, the ominous performances of the three mysterious ‘Auditors’, each wearing a hooded black gown, are chillingly amusing in both their appearance and dialogue. These more sinister yet comedic performances greatly emphasise the play’s more macabre themes while still maintaining the performance’s amusing and light-hearted mood.

Set in the Assembly Rooms Theatre, the venue’s proscenium stage provides excellent viewing from all areas of the audience. It would be amiss not to compliment the phenomenal light design and operation which truly gives the performance a professional touch. The lighting colour changes are sensitive to the emotions of particular moments within scenes which creates an evocative atmosphere throughout the play. Additionally, the periodic use of fairy lights around the stage provides the production with a festive and Christmassy feel. Furthermore, the fade-to-black between scenes proves to be a subtle yet effective way of transitioning between segments and storylines. On a similar note, it is important to applaud the use of comedic sounds during the production. Many unexpected sound effects appear over the course of the play and keep the audience engaged and riveted throughout.

What stands out the most about Hogfather is how funny it is – there is audible laughter from the audience during almost every scene which is unmistakeably due to the whole cast’s incredible comedic timing and talent

While the latter scenes of the play would’ve benefited from being given more emphasis to give the ending more closure, I otherwise feel that the material was interpreted well, both creatively and practically by director and assistant director Zoe Wilcken. This is especially evident during the play’s more dynamic scenes, in which the movement of actors is clearly purposeful and well executed. Furthermore, the resourceful use of the fly system for changing scenery in the background of the stage shows incredible creative flair and helps to further emphasise and differentiate between the contrasting atmospheres of different scenes.

In all, Hogfather is a brilliantly festive and fantastical performance which excels both on stage and behind the scenes. This merry and mysterious production is definitely not to be missed!

Image Credit: Ooook! Productions

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