Christmas anarchy to reign supreme at the Rosemary Branch theatre

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The stars of Narcissistic Nativity. Photograph: Anthony Lycett

If you haven’t heard, theatre at the Rosemary Branch has changed. Gone are the days of the Charles Court Opera’s crazy Christmas shenanigans and instead the theatre pub has opened its doors to an anarchic festive triple-bill comprising a narcissistic nativity show, a story of an elf who after years of grotto work “finally cracked” and a drag-infused pagan extravaganza. Theatremakers Genevieve Taricco and Scarlett Plouviez Comnas talk about taking over the theatre and their new experimental yuletide vision.

The Rosemary Branch has long been synonymous with alternative Christmas shows, particularly the Charles Court Opera pantomimes. How keen are you to carry on that legacy?

We love Charles Court’s alternative takes on classic stories. The fact that their pantos always went down a treat here was certainly a big inspiration for us when thinking about what Rosemary Branch audiences might enjoy this Christmas.

Most theatres make do with one Christmas show, but you are putting on a triple bill. What can audiences expect?

We wanted to give audiences a whole lot of variety – think of it as a Xmas menage a trois. But in all seriousness, the shows definitely aren’t trying to be risque. They will certainly offer an escape from some of the more saccharine, traditional Christmas narratives. Programming three shows is also our crafty way of getting to hang out for all of December with three different companies whose work we’re equally passionate about.

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Jaded grotto worker: F*cking Little Elf Bitch. Photograph: Anthony Lycett

What’s the advantage of putting on Christmas shows rather than a panto – are pantos old-fashioned?

We actually see these shows as incorporating lots of the best bits of panto. Nothing has to be old-fashioned if you experiment with content and form. Drag is of course central to our late-night weekend show, Virgin Xtravaganzah’s Pagan Xmas, and the Virgin also sings and offers up her brilliantly clever re-writes of pop songs. Our 7pm show, Narcissistic Nativity (see picture above), is by one of our favourite young companies, the Urban Foxes – and, knowing them, will be packed full of laughs and mischief that directly engages with its audience. And, believe it or not, our prime time 8.15pm show F*cking Little Elf B*tch is a pretty damn heart-warming Christmas tale.

In your programming are you consciously trying to appeal to younger than average theatre audiences?

We’re pretty young, and we consider it a success that we’ve tempted lots of young people through the theatre doors since we took over in June. But we definitely weren’t the first generation to have a wicked sense of humour. In fact, our friends and our influences vary wildly in age. So any sense of anarchy is firmly aimed at audiences of all ages and shoe sizes. Apart from kids – we clearly think children are ghastly.

Narcissistic Nativity, F*cking Little Elf Bitch and Virgin Xtravaganzah’s Pagan Xmas,
6–31 December, Rosemary Branch, 2 Shepperton Road, N1 3DT 



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