Theatre Review: Forget Turkey

Forget Turkey (We’re Going to Phuket This Christmas) at the Lyric Theatre is a hard show to describe. It is kind of like the secret love-child of Spitting Image and Saturday Night Live, who’s been raised in secret (possibly in some sort of sparkly bunker, the sort of place Ali G would have for emergencies) by a troupe of variety show performers – only to escape one day and find fame and acceptance on the Danske Bank Stage. Or, more succinctly, it’s funny, but it’s weird.

Penned by the talented trio of ‘Gary Mitchell, the playwright and dramatist, Colin Murphy, the comedian, and myself [Dan Gordon] as the lunatic’, Forget Turkey is a series of incisively surreal and satirical topical sketches and informative sound-bites, all loosely tied together by the narrative thread of good-natured and love-lorn Artur the Porter trying to find a bed for an old man mannequin on Christmas Eve in Casualty and a Christmas in Phuket for himself.

(And it is, apparently, pronounced the way it would be funniest. I have a friend who had to spend six months overseeing the importation of canned clams from Phuket, and attempts to bowdlerise it into ‘Phoocat’ were derided. I include this little detail because the idea of canned clams tickles me.) The sketches are a mixture of live performance by the four-strong cast of Michael Condron (Macbeth), Maria Connolly (Macbeth), Jo Donnelly (The Long Road) and Chris Robinson (Brendan at the Chelsea) and pre-recorded television that’s projected onto the three oval screens on stage.

The screens also serve as set dressing, allowing for an impressive amount of quick scene changes and back-drops. It wouldn’t work in a more serious production (the alignment of the screens caused a bit of fun house mirror distortion where they crossed over) but in Forget Turkey it was almost flawless. The abrupt segues and jumps from sketches to staged vox-pops were reminiscent of the style of the sort of TV comedy show that Forget Turkey is nodding to.

The cast are never less than admirable throughout. In particular, the rubber-faced Jo Donnelly capably reduces the audiences to giggles with nothing but a boggle-eyed look as a variety of be-hatted stooges. They also seemed to be genuinely having fun with the whole thing, mugging gleefully at each other and shooting knowing winks into the audience.

As a look back the ‘year what was’ Forget Turkey covers everything from the sinking of the Costa Concordia (showing how to keep humour that’s in bad taste on just the right side of funny) to the Queen’s visit (in song, no less) and the flag protests (thankfully, not in evidence around the theatre). An usually event-filled December had the case and writers working new material in right up to the line on this production.

Some of the sketches had the audience in kinks of laughter, nearly drowning out what was going on stage, others fell flat. Flashing up an image of that poor dog that got set on fire and had to be put down last year, even fleetingly? Bit of a chuckle-killer, for me, particularly at the very start of the show.

The saving grace, of course, is that humour is so subjective that not everyone in the audience agreed on what worked and what didn’t. So while this critic is still sniggering over ‘princely ginger pecker peeker’ and barely raised a smile for the ‘mammy-granny’ skit, other members of the audience thought it was the other way around. Of course, they were wrong. I’m a professional.

Besides, the show is fast-paced enough that one miss-the-mark sketch doesn’t interrupt the flow of laughter enough to make much difference. Just when you think the introduction of an unholy golfing puppet version of Rory McIllroy has spoiled things, here comes Donnelly in McIllroy drag with a hysterical rendition of ‘I Wanna Be an American Citizen’.

Forget Turkey (We’re Going to Phuket This Christmas)  is a clever, witty show that proves to be a dab hand with the cross-community mickey-taking. After all, the only way to get away with barbequing MY sacred cows is if you toss some sauce on THEIR cows too. And I haven’t told you about the funniest part of the show. It involves a Lidl’s bag, bad judgement and an absolutely hysterical dance number with – but I’ll say no more. Go see it for yourself.

Forget Turkey (We’re Going to Phuket This Christmas) is at the Lyric Theatre until January 13