05 December 2008

The Santaland Diaries

The Santaland Diaries
Auspicious Arts Incubator
5 December 2008

Wikipedia says that David Sedaris has sold over 7 million books. More impressively, he’s number 25 at stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. White people love Sedaris. “They” also love plays, coffee, sushi, microbreweries, writing workshops, non-profit organisations, breakfast places, apple products, famers markets, organic food, apologies and irony. So it’s safe to say that Melbourne theatre goers will love The Santaland Diaries.

Before being embraced by white folk, Sedaris was poor and pathetic enough to be a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store in New York. The bloke with the big white beard must have been paying attention because David wrote an essay about his experience, and reading it on the radio in 1992 lead to that elusive break that so many of his fellow acting/dancing/prancing elves had hoped for.  Never say the American Dream isn’t alive, kicking and wrapped in a big red ironic bow!

In 1996 Joe Mantello adapted The Santaland Diaries into a one act play, which the Auspicious Arts Incubator team are presenting to Melbourne. It doesn’t take long to translate the American store to our own Magic Cave and Myers windows. And we know that Santa’s real name is Father Christmas.

Russell Fletcher (host of Spontaneous Broadway) is Crumpet. Fortunately, he doesn’t mimic Sedaris, but gives us the delightfully-fruity Fletcher version of the dismayed elf. However, I wonder why director John Paul Fischbach gave Crumpet an American accent, as it added unnecessary distance between the story and the audience. The tale is so middle-class universal that it doesn’t need a voice to place it in US culture. It’s loved because the Macy’s experience is the same as sitting on Father Christmas’s knee at Fountain Gate.

The Santaland Diaries is a must if your Christmas spirit is refusing to hang its stockings with care and considering conversion to any faith or culture that doesn’t force you to purchase secret-santa gifts, be polite to distant relatives or look thrilled when you open your fifth box of Roses chocolates.

After I saw the play, I enjoyed a Little Creatures ale, and went home early so I could be up in time for my pick of the organic food at the St Kilda Farmers Market before enjoying a coffee at a really nice breakfast place, while listening to my iPod. I’m also sorry if I’ve offended anyone.

This review appeared on AussieThearte.com

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