Stripped back to an actor in an empty space, Matthew Bulgo’s ‘Last Christmas’ explores the gaping holes we all live with and through in darkly comedic ways.
Tom (Sion Pritchard), escaping a particularly difficult encounter with his girlfriend and headed toward another painful experience, offers a meditation on life, love and the messy stuff that fills the spaces between all of us.
Bulgo’s character is a delightfully near-articulate bundle of contradictions and suppressed emotion immediately recognisable to any male over a certain age. Tom’s growing pains follow an arc that takes in birth, death and our inability to fully deal with their undeniable reality.
Head still hammered from the after-effects of a bad office party, the train on which Tom is travelling is bound for Swansea, and a reunion that can never happen. En route to his final destination, Tom encounters three friends of his youth, the least likely of whom proves the catalyst of his salvation.
There’s undeniably a lot to enjoy in Bulgo’s script, much of it delivered in Tom’s darkly humourous descriptions of the office party clearly packaged in hell, a hell which is all too often other people, later personified by Tom’s three friends of former days.
Where there is darkness, however, there is also light, even, and perhaps especially, when we struggle to express our reaction to this. One of the great strengths of Bulgo’s writing is the way in which it manages to illuminate unexpressed emotion.
If you prefer to roast your chestnuts by an open fire while watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on a loop tape, ‘Last Christmas’ may not be for you, and it’s certainly a very different beast to the clever adaptation of Black Beauty offered on the Traverse main stage.
If, however, you sense that there may, in fact, be something lurking beneath the tinsel show that is still worth embracing, well, you could do worse than taking yourself along to ‘Last Christmas’.
Til 23 Dec