Douglas Walker Presents: Of Christmas Past | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Douglas Walker Presents: Of Christmas Past

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Whether Douglas Walker’s third solo show strictly classifies as comedy is a moot point. But until the Fringe programme introduces a section for ‘extended whimsy’, this is where it sits.

For Of Christmas Past is a sprawling shaggy dog story that imagines the full extent of the Coca-Cola Company’s links with the legend of Santa Claus, which goes far deeper than you might think. In this intricate fantasy, the benevolent, sherry-swigging, sleigh-riding beardie is at the heart of a century-old global conspiracy that implicates some of the most celebrated figures in history and reveals the sinister truth behind the jovial image.

The imaginative narrative is as engrossing as it is sprawling, aided by Walker’s compelling storytelling techniques.  Using the characterisation skills he’s learned as an improviser with Racing Minds - the well-established troupe whose shows start with too many As - Walker conjures up every plotter in the tale with effective delineations of accent and cadence. There are Russian dissidents, British aristocrats, American corporate manipulators, and, in an early sequence that just seems like showing off, a dozen or so foreign diplomats.

The very premise he’s setting forth is wryly amusing, as indeed is his dedication to telling this almost entirely straight, making the fable seem as credible as it can be. 

Yet, crucially, the yarn mostly raises only mild smiles. It’s about 20 minutes before the first proper joke, and you can count the number of these there are in the hour on the hooves of a couple of reindeer. However, there’s something weirdly admirable about a man prepared to invest umpteen minutes on a meandering fancy just to end up with a pun.

How much you enjoy this depends on your expectations. If you want what’s essentially a spoken word show but with comic sensibilities (even if with few actual punchlines), this is the real thing, and Walker delivers decisively on those terms. But there are definitely a lot funnier shows out there.

Review date: 5 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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