The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas by Anthony Neilson is an adult fairy tale that takes an acerbic view of Christmas in a society permeated by a spirituality of materialism. 

And it’s funny.  Really funny.

Neilson’s play achieves this by inverting our time-honored cliches about Christmas and turning them on their head by having them manifest in a literal way.  Everything we’ve been taught since we were children about Christmas (the “Christmas feeling,” the presents, Santa, the elves) all become explained by a highly pragmatic, thoroughly plausible and rational argument.  By doing this, the play makes the point that we, as a society, are open to the graces that the holiday represents, but only in so far as they fit into our “model” of the way things work.  It’s kind of like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but turned inside out.  Instead of the Spirit of Christmas surviving the theft of all the presents and material trappings of the holiday, Christmas actually redeems the people in the play by virtue of those very things.

And it’s funny.  Really funny.  Did I mention that?

Clay Hopper
Associate Artistic Director
Olney Theatre Center