Kanen Breen: I am not a Christmas person, quite the opposite to Jacqui, which was always going to bring an interesting friction to us writing a Christmas show together.
I find it hard to see past the consumerism and the excessive expenditure, but the collision of commercialism and religion is strangely fascinating and fertile terrain from which an irreverent musical take on the silly season can spring.
That modern society is so comfortable shoe-horning Santa Claus, flying reindeer and the virgin birth of the Christian saviour into one festive event is all the evidence I need that this is truly a situation ripe for a little lampooning.
We wanted at least part of the show to examine the season from the outside – looking in rather than the other way around – because that is so many people’s experience of Christmas. If the message underpinning this time of year is “peace on earth and goodwill to all men”, then how do we account for the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised? Are those whose religion or geo-political circumstances prevent them from celebrating exempt from this sudden miraculous capacity for compassion?
It is quite deliberate that we portray Prancer and Vixen as “outsider” reindeers; exiled from the herd. They are free for the first time to form their own opinions about Santa’s regime and the inhumanity of the human condition.
It all sounds dreadfully cynical (and it is). We laugh at the world, we laugh at ourselves and the audiences laugh along with us, at us and at themselves. Somehow, in writing a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of “the most wonderful time of the year”, we ended up with a show full of heart, humour and compassion. I still can’t figure that one out.
We only had one audience member take exception last year, an 80-something-year-old duck in a wheelchair who clearly hoped we would have more of a “Carols by Candlelight with Dennis Walter” vibe going on. Once we started delving into transvestism, inter-species romance and the aphrodisiac properties of the reindeer penis we lost her. She turned her wheelchair and faced the wall for the remaining 40 minutes in very noble protest. I hope she turned her hearing aids off before the c-bombs started detonating!
Let me admit up front that I LOVE Christmas.
I love everything about it … the trees, the tinsel, the carols, the presents, the feeling of community spirit and families gathering together. Having said that, I am also acutely aware that Christmas is a time of utter despair for many people, for many reasons.
When we decided to write this show, it was always going to be irreverent and saucy, and I’d always intended to give that upstart Rudolph a bit of a shake-up. What neither of us saw coming was the heart and compassion that suddenly erupted in the centre of things.
We should have known, of course, as The Beddies’ trademark is to maintain a kernel of absolute truth amid all of the frivolity, and to careen between the sublime and the ridiculous like pinballs.
I love the fact that, in a possible example of art imitating life, Prancer and Vixen have been banished from the herd for their various quirks, and it’s only from the outside that they are free to both look back in and explore the reality behind the Christmas myth and its iconic characters, and to also look outwards in search of what this Christmas thing is really about.
We had an absolute ball writing the musical numbers. Some are novel twists on old favourites. Others were penned solely by us. I was fascinated that one number I wrote, which I thought was kinda relevant but cute and funny, got an absolutely shocked and outraged reaction. People were laughing despite themselves.
We’re incredibly lucky to have Daryl Wallis at the helm as MD. He’s an absolute genius, following us when we go rogue and begin ad-libbing dialogue and lyrics. Sometimes it’s because we’ve thought of something better on the spot. More often than not it’s because we’ve forgotten what we were supposed to say. These are actually some of my favourite moments, and I believe they create that special Bedfellows vibe, as we banter and toss about off-the-cuff nonsense.
Honestly, Kane and my idea of a perfect Christmas Day is sinking into the couch and getting pleasantly tipsy with a couple of bottles of Sparkling Shiraz, Clinkers and our festive bolognaise, watching reruns of Carols By Candlelight and not speaking to each other. This is the musical version of that … but with more c-bombs.