A Picture of ’Elf/ Vesta Tilley Studio, Worcester


SEARCHING questions regarding the true meaning of Christmas are nothing new.

The theme has been explored by writers on any number of occasions, the great Charles Dickens himself probably being the most celebrated.

But here we have, courtesy of the impressive pen of T G Hofman, a new and inventive take on the tale of the seasonal ghost who has a habit of appearing at this time of the year to remind us of forgotten values.

Therapist Dr Moroz is expecting his last client of the day before jetting off to some sunny clime for his getaway Yuletide. The customer is late, and Moroz is just about to leave his office when the lights fail, plunging everything into darkness.

When power is restored, Bobo the elf is standing before him. He doesn’t waste any time in telling the good doctor how dissatisfied he is with his job, what with all the work involved in keeping a shallow consumerist society happy with yet more meaningless material objects.

All right, this is not exactly a new idea. But what brings this thought-provoking one act play to brilliant, blossoming life is the fabulous stagecraft of Rep regular Rob Leetham and George Ormerod as our crazy mixed up elf.

Slowly but surely, Bobo dissects and dismantles Moroz’s own life, reversing the roles as if by magic which, bearing in mind he’s an elf, naturally present no problems whatsoever.

In the blink of an eye, Moroz is confronted with his own reality and human frailty as Bobo digs deep into a Christmas pudding that’s stuffed full of secrets.

How can Bobo know what Moroz has for Christmas at the age of eight? How does he compute the logistics of his boss doing a year’s work getting round the planet all in one night?

It says something about the writer’s craft that a play lasting barely 45 minutes can leave such an impression on the audience. And it does - tightly and imaginatively directed by Ben Humphrey, this Worcester Repertory Company presentation is indeed a much-needed oasis of reflective calm as we enter the maelstrom of the Christmas season.

A Picture of ’Elf runs runs at the Swan Theatre, Worcester, until Saturday, December 21, and certainly supplies a welcome antidote to all that looming excess.

John Phillpott