Like a saucy triptych, the Duncan Hallis Production team that brought you XXXmas Carol and The Lion, The B!tch And The Wardrobe are back with The First Xxxmas: A Very Naughty-tivity, their third and final Christmas cabaret show. If Disney setting up camp in most of the Wales Millennium Centre strikes you as being overly in the service of capitalism, pop into the Weston Studio for this festive floor show.
If last year’s take on Christian author CS Lewis’ classic didn’t go far enough, then this time they’re doing the ultimate and indeed first Christmas story, the birth of Christmas… and bebe Jesus, I suppose. (Slightly disappointed they didn’t take my suggestion of doing a late-night cabaret version of It’s A Wonderful Life this year.) Cardiff drag artist Polly Amorous, or the Virgin Polly (here we pause for laughter) takes the place of Mary on the road to Bethle- Newport. But don’t expect an offensive spoof of Christianity’s greatest story! This is something deeper, even if your transphobic churchgoing great aunt isn’t really the target audience.
With mostly the same cast as The Lion…, Polly Amorous comes on like she’s been doing this forever. She’s a natural MC and her opening monologue – which includes the line “my pronouns are I-Con” – is outstanding. Before the show even starts, the set design is something to look at, and as for Polly’s first outfit – Brad Caleb Lee is an artist.
Alongside Polly are bellydancer Rahim El Habachi, burlesque artist FooFoo Labelle and circus aerialists Bunmi Odumosu and Eric McGill. The latter portrays Herod as a modern prime minister, complete with blood on his hands and doing a rope routine with a noose. It all ends with McGill ladling himself in fake blood, making for a standout moment. Add multi-instrumentalist Jenna Dyckhoff and fire eater (and stage manager) Helena Gonzalez to the mix, and The First XXXmas has more than previous Duncan Hallis productions: puppets, a drag king with heck of a voice and more political satire and commentary.
Xxxmas’ closing stages surprised audience members with a turn for the serious and heartfelt, with moments of beauty among the debauchery. El Habachi sang a beautiful Arabic folk song; the hymn Jerusalem sounds, in context, more jingoistic and problematic than ever; there’s a belly dance to Bodies by Drowning Pool while the slogan “JESUS WAS A REFUGEE” flashes on the wall. And Polly, who will never cease to surprise me, tackles the notoriously difficult-to-sing Sondheim to close proceedings amidst sound clips of people’s ideal Christmas (a cup of tea in bed, the wish that all trans people could sit at the table with their family).
If The First Xxxmas really is the last Duncan Hallis Production show, Polly and company are definitely bowing out on a high.
The First Xxxmas: A Very Naughty-tivity, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Thurs 7 Dec
On until Sun 31 Dec. Tickets: £20. Info: here
words CHRIS WILLIAMS photos KIRSTEN MCTERNAN