Christmas Eve, Ustinov Studio, Bath

THERE are lots of ways to describe Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s play Christmas Eve, which has its UK premiere run at Bath until 18th November.

It’s a love story. It’s a new way of looking at the relevance of midnight at Christmas (sans Prince Charming.) It’s a tense political thriller whose heartbeat is the incredibly advanced surveillance technology now at our disposal. It’s a game of cat and mouse.

Laurence Boswell’s production, electrifyingly performed by Niamh Cusack and Patrick Baladi, is set in the stark surroundings of an interview room in an undisclosed location. Professor Judith, en route to Christmas Day with her parents, has been snatched from a taxi by secret police.

Played out in real time, her interrogator must discover the whereabouts of a bomb mentioned on her unlinked computer … if, indeed, a bomb exists.

At the start we know nothing about the protagonists, but as a picture builds up, both from the extraordinary amount of information gleaned by the police and from tiny shards of reaction, our sympathies peak and our opinions veer.

She’s a sophisticated academic and he, if we go by appearances, a bit of a bruiser and unexpectedly bright. She has been married to, and still loves, a shady political activist with a full beard and voracious sexual appetites. Her questioner’s ex-wife is revolted by his very existence.

Time is running out.

Are we witnessing state paranoia or is a monstrous atrocity planned at midnight?

To describe German writer Kehl­mann’s play as thought-provoking would be an understatement. It IS a play for a post-Brexit Europe, battling with the realities of state surveillance, mass immigration and historic abuse.

Almost all performances are sold out, but grab a ticket if you can.


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