Holy Mo! ‘A reverently irreverent re-imagining of the Nativity’

Holy Mo!  A Christmas Show! opened at Pacific Theatre on December 2nd.  I attended and as a ready beholder in a full house on opening night, I was primed and curious to see how playwright Lucia Frangione and director Kerry van der Griend managed to braid three zany clowns and quotes from Supernatural, The Matrix, Trump, and Mussolini, into a Christmas story.


The performance begins with a set fit for a fanciful and playful world, designed by Heipo Leung. Lanterns hover above the stage, and an ample cart with wide wooden wheels waits patiently.  A whimsical character dressed in running shoes, patterned tights and suspender held pants cut well above the ankles, lies still in slumber clutching an oversized tricycle.  Nearby a large and small trunk promise surprises.  Lights alert the audience to turn to the side just as someone of purpose in a quizzical, red military jacket steps onto the stage and into the ‘world’ with a wreath and three candles.  The clownish sleeper reluctantly wakens.  Well timed and in jack-in-the-box style a comic pops out of a trunk.  In relatively short order, the spectators are introduced to, and charmed by, the nimble cast.

photo by Emily Cooper

Amid buffoonery and laughter, trickery and song, the cartwheeling trio beckon the audience to Galilee. Not to the world of Mary and Joseph as ‘traditionally told with…white sheep in the manger”, but to “the political world of Mary and Joseph during the birth of Jesus with its relevance today.”. Throughout unique and creative episodes each actor deftly morphs into familiar and not so familiar characters – sometimes gritty and sometimes silly – while navigating the stretch from past woes to contemporary foes.

photo by Emily Cooper

Holy Mo! A Christmas Show! is timeless.  It’s a performance of many loosely woven garlands flowing hither and thither that magically arrive together at precisely the right spot.  It stars award winning actor Lucia Frangione as Follie the ring leader, tirelessly effervescent Jess Amy Shead as Buffoona, and multi-talented Anita Wittenberg as Guff.   These clowns, like jesters before them, entertain in a variety of ways, including music, song, dance, acrobats and story telling.  True to Shakespeare’s fool they are complex characters who speak to each other in Iambic Pentameter and are able to underscore important issues with quirky wit and outlandish twists .  Most importantly, their combined antics offer a buffer of humour and a particular empathy through which a conversation of both the happiness and sorrow of Christmas can evolve.

This is a performance you’ll want to see – probably twice!  The dialogue is clever; the musical score – catchy and entertaining; and high spirited energy makes it all fun.   Holy Mo! A Christmas Show! plays at Pacific Theatre until December 31st.  See pacifictheatre.org for details.

All images by Emily Cooper

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