REVIEW: Sleigh! (Basement Theatre)

Review by Erin O'Flaherty

[Keeping the Season Silly]

Sleigh!, this year’s Basement Christmas show created by The Heartthrobs, is a fully improvised romp set in that most wonderful, strange and Christmassy of places: the mall. If you’ve seen Snort before, you’ll be familiar with the basic structure – the performers ask the audience for prompts around which they must then create a scene. (And if you’ve never been to improv comedy before, don’t worry – that is the extent of the audience participation.) For Sleigh! we are asked to suggest places in the mall, which become the settings for the improvised scenes.

The first round of scenes introduces us to characters whose journey we will end up following throughout the show. But at the top of the scenes in the first round, there is a beautiful suspense in the air – the setting has been established but the characters and conflict have not, and we are right alongside the performers with the electrifying sensation that this could go anywhere. And, boy, will it! As we reunite with these characters and their predicaments in the following rounds, the performers manage to take us on a chaotic yet heartfelt journey, slowly turning the dial up to eleven.

The night I attended featured a money-laundering massage parlour, a will-they-won’t-they bromance in EB games, and a potential love affair between a Victoria’s Secret worker and a 75-year-old customer. We quickly fall in love with the characters, and it is truly a joy to watch the story unfold before our very eyes in a whirlwind of laughs and absurdity.

The special guest is introduced in the second act and is ushered through a series of activities by the other performers. Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with the guest, and I wish they had been utilised a bit more. That said, we were still able to get the pleasure of watching someone thrust into something completely unprepared, while games were used to keep the guest safe and never in danger of derailing the whole thing. 

The Heartthrobs serve us a strong rotating cast of female performers, who bring the joy and energy right from the top. We always feel we are in good hands with them – they know just when to bring back a gag, up the stakes or end a scene. It’s clear they’re having a lot of fun, and their enjoyment is contagious. And, of course, they are absolutely hilarious!

The show ends on a note of genuine community spirit and Christmas cheer (while still never taking itself too seriously, of course). I am reminded why the Basement Christmas show is such an institution – for the spirit of Christmas is, in many ways, the spirit of theatre (and comedy especially). It is a chance for us all to come together, to put our differences aside and share a laugh.

Sleigh! is a beautifully silly laugh-a-minute show and a truly fun night out. If you’ve never seen improv comedy before, it may just convert you. If you’re already a fan, you do not want to miss this one.

Sleigh! plays Basement Theatre 30 November – 23 December, 2022. 

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