Bethlehem Meets Billericay In Alternativity At Hope Theatre

Alternativity, The Hope Theatre ★★★★☆

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Bethlehem Meets Billericay In Alternativity At Hope Theatre Alternativity, The Hope Theatre 4

When there’s no room at the Premier Inn, what's a young pregnant couple, recently homeless, to do on a cold Christmas night? New play Alternativity, set in modern-day Billericay, answers this in a clever twist on the traditional tale of Jesus’ birth. The angel Gabriel is a weed-smoking psychic, and Joseph is a redundant DT teacher: safe to say, then, that this is no ordinary Christmas story.

The play opens in the living room of a bickering Essex family — mum, dad, and their sons Matthew and Luke — who are trying to get through a painful game of Trivial Pursuit on Christmas afternoon. The drama really gets going, however, when we are transported to the bedroom of a young girl (and virgin) Maria, who gets visited at stupid-o-clock in the morning by her friend Gabby, a psychic, who tells Maria she is pregnant. Nine months later, Maria and her boyfriend Joe turn up on the doorstep of the unsuspecting Essex family — who still haven't finished their game of Trivial Pursuit — asking for somewhere to stay for the night: the Holiday Inn, and even the Premier Inn, are full. Luckily, the family have a shed.

The references to the original Nativity story are slipped in at every opportunity, from the boys Matthew and Luke, the modern disciples,  spreading news of the story through Twitter, to the Oriental takeaway they all get from local joint Kings of the East — there are even donkeys and sheep, after the farm down the road had a case of escaping animals.

Despite the small scale of the production, this is an hour of very clever writing, and some pretty impressive acting. The initial living room scenes are admittedly slightly drawn out, with not a huge amount going on bar some great one-liners, but as soon as the plot unfolds, the play gets really exciting. Gillian King, who plays the rubber-glove wearing Mum, is fantastic, as is the talented Isabella Inchbald, who alternates between the carol-singing narrator and the very high Gabby. A great deal more comical that the Bethlehem story, but with the same warm message, Alternativity offers a new take on the real meaning of Christmas.

Alternativity, The Hope Theatre, 207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL. Tickets from £15, until 17 December 2018.

Last Updated 17 December 2018