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14 December 2011
First Night Feature: Copyright Christmas

Official London Theatre

I thought no shopping experience could give me the willies more than a Saturday morning trip to Ikea. That was until I visited Copyright Christmas at the Barbican.

Duckie’s festive offering is a shopping experience like no other, where Social Acceptance and Freedom From Guilt are offered as free gifts and service doesn’t so much come with as smile as with a niggling feeling that your shop assistant is one mince pie away from exploding like a set of faulty fairy lights.

The evening of counter-culture consumerism begins with store manager Carol giving a pre-opening speech before, split into smaller groups, the audience wanders its way around the store, past crates of flat-pack furniture poking fun at a certain Swedish store, following the handy yellow arrows on the floor.

Each section offers a different ‘treat’, from a live broadcast of video shopping channel VSS offering a distinctly ambiguous miracle gift to the Recycling Turkey and Corporate Responsibility Elf discussing the merits of recycling. You can buy a job, buy a miracle cream or just watch a distinctly disturbing encounter with Santa.

Like any superstore, some departments are better than others and more intriguing than others. But if you don’t like being told what job you can buy, you are only minutes away from being scanned to discover your worth or being insulted by a man dressed as a turkey twizzler. If panto security guards singing Christmas tunes don’t make your sleigh bells ring, there’s always an acrobatic elf around the corner.

Of course, mixed in among the bizarreness – and I did find myself questioning what was happening at almost ever turn – there’s a dig at consumerism, the recession and the shop’s ability to convince everyone that spending heavily at Christmas will make them happy. But, to be honest, it is the sheer randomness of the situation that stayed with me… and just when you though things couldn’t get any more bonkers you reach the finale.

If you like your Christmas to come with cheery twinkling lights, a glass of mulled wine and Bing Crosby crooning in your ear, this might not be the show for you. But if you’re a little more Bah Humbug and enjoy your Christmas pudding with a hefty dollop of cynicism and a sprinkling of madness, chances are you’ll be ho ho hoing like a Father Christmas on laughing gas.

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Website: Leif Harmsen
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