In A Nutshell
Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker shows that the Aussie drag-mother is no one trick wallaby, even if some new material isn’t perfect.
NB Since this review was published, some changes have been made to Shelia Simmonds: Christmas Cracker. Therefore, some parts of this review may no longer reflect the show’s content.
Join Sheila Simmonds once more in her TV studio at the Leicester Square Theatre, for another evening of song, party games, and home shopping hard-sells.
Last year, Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker burst onto the Christmas show scene like an overstuffed bird and provided five star laughter and entertainment to the point where the show was nominated for a West End Wilma award. As pink polyester home shopping royalty returns for another run of festive fun, the fear was always going to be that Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker would be a cut and paste repeat of the show that worked wonders last year.
Not on your nelly, mooloos! Although some of what worked really well last year, like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Pound Shop Challenge” are back, everything else is pretty much brand new. The new set is slicker and pinker, there are more astounding outfits, and Sheila Simmonds brings out the technological guns to give something different to the show. Other differences are in just how Sheila’s own story develops as we finally get meet the nefarious Jean, providing a whole new dynamic and wealth of new jokes and routines.
However, it’s some of the new material that actually means this year’s Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker doesn’t get the same full-marks as last year: namely the video element (everything else new works brilliantly). Whilst the originality of the video work is certainly appreciated and you can’t really moan at Sheila not wanting to do the same show twice, the problem is it that it stymies what’s best about her. Sheila Simmonds’ excellence is in just how quick-triggered she is in responding to the crowd, slipping in a zany quip from out of nowhere, or riffing side-splitting ad libs like nobody’s business. Having to keep to the strict timing of interacting with the video saps energy and opportunity for uproarious shenanigans, even though the videos in themselves are actually quite fun. It’s the comparison to the rest of Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker that makes these moments feel slower, more sedate, and not as spontaneous.
But, thankfully, the main element of what makes any Sheila Simmonds show an absolute hoot remains: Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker is a vehicle to showcase Sheila’s rapier wit, quickfire jokes, brilliant humour, and just how excellently they can work a crowd into a frenzy of laughter. There’s plenty of variety too, from storytelling to song and dance numbers, along with the saucy drag banter that Sheila does so well. Expect more Aussie shopping channel madness with preposterous products for which Sheila’s comic imagination hits catalogue gold, and light showers of Werther’s Originals. But ultimately, it’s the celebrated return of the same outrageous and hilarious Sheila Simmonds that we all know and love that makes Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker a hit once more.
Sheila Simmonds really is at the height of their career. Every element of the new show is embraced with the same aplomb as the older ones. If you’d never seen Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker before, you would have no idea that the majority of this year’s serving is nearly completely new. The ability to churn out new material that is just as good and as just as comfortable as the old is something that really has to be applauded.
Just like the material, Sheila embraces the crowd too, making them feel an integral part of the show, continuing to give Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker that homely hospitality that last year’s show did so well. Even if you do fail to be won over by the smut and the silliness (which, if so, why did you go in the first place), Sheila’s effortless and tear-inducing charm will have you putting her home shopping channel number on speed dial.
Jean is also a brilliant addition to the show, and who’s silent performance is quietly inspired, garnering almost as much love from the audience as Sheila herself. And straight-to-DVD actor and QVC legend, Patrick Hoy, makes barmy digital cameos throughout, especially excelling in his exclusive “interview” with Beyonce!
If variety is the spice of Christmas, then Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker is a turkey vindaloo! Sheila Simmonds should be the star on-top of everyone’s Christmas tree.
Sheila Simmonds: Christmas Cracker plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2H 7BX until 30 December. Tickets are £15. To book, visit www.leicestersquaretheatre.com.