21 Round For Christmas: Hope Theatre ****

Clare Bloomer stars in this festive comedy at The Hope Theatre on Upper Street Islington Christmas 2021

Clare Bloomer stars in this festive comedy at The Hope Theatre on Upper Street - Credit: Cam Harle

Three minutes into Clare Bloomer’s fabulous performance and it’s hard to credit that she’s a classically trained actor and not a chirpy but put-upon housewife from one of the estates a stone’s throw from Upper Street’s Hope theatre.

This terrific one-woman show is the much-anticipated live world premiere of a play which streamed successfully last year, during lockdown.

Written by Toby Hampton and Matt Ballantyne, it places day-dreaming but outspoken Tracy Sullivan alone in the kitchen while her “lager swilling bell-end of a husband” Derek, his appalling vegan mother Carol, and twenty guests are having a Christmas morning knees-up in the front room.

She takes the opportunity to tell us about her life, family and friends. She's scathing about Carol’s New Age fads, and brings the house down with the story of Mystic Doreen’s séance and Trevor the spaniel.

21 Round For Christmas

21 Round For Christmas plays at The Hope Theatre until December 18. - Credit: Cam Harle

We learn all about best friend Jackie (now in a hospice) and the lifelong bond they share. When young, they were pretty sussed about men and had strong views about how they divide into cowards and a five-letter word that stars with C.

Her account of how to pull “a rich toss-pot” is a master class of women taking the upper hand to get what they want all, delivered in rich earthy and often graphic language.

The vision of Tracy demonstrating how to seductively eat a canape - using a carrot substitute - will stay with me for some time!

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But her chirpiness hides sorrow, somehow girl power gave way to disempowerment; finding herself pregnant and abandoned overnight, Jackie's undisclosed illness, being treated as a live-in maid by Derek.

For the most part you will be crying with laughter. Bloomer is the perfect anti-Christmas heroine, even the ad libs are superb.

Go, if you must, to the West End for a panto starring a 70s one-hit-wonder prancing round in tights. For a thigh-slapping Christmas cracker pop along to the Hope before December 18.

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