This Christmas in Bristol, those in search of star quality can see David Suchet swashbuckle his way across the stage in Peter Pan at the Hippodrome. Those that want a lavish production and exotic treats can watch Arabian Nights at the Old Vic. Meanwhile, those in the know – and there are more every year – are well aware that the most fun, seedy and bonkers Christmas show is the low-budget genre-mashing fare at the Wardrobe Theatre. This year is no different, with The Good, The Bad & The Coyote Ugly welding together the Spaghetti Western with the ridiculous 2000 rom-com to create a show that is irreverent, filthy and mad.
Mary Sue (Sedona Rose) is a rural girl who dreams of escaping her sand-eating father and the drudgery of the Shit Bridge toll booth for the bright lights of Dodge City. Witnessing a brutal murder, she seizes her opportunity to get out, and high tails it to the place of her dreams, a place where the living is rough and the streets are dangerous. She takes refuge in the Ugly Coyote bar, where water is banned and the bar staff are rude and lascivious, abusing the punters while grinding their way along the bar top. Meanwhile, Mary Sue is being tracked down by the murderer, and the local randy Sherriff Moonlight (Jenny Smith) wants to get his end away and make an explosive power grab in the town. Cue the Sergio Morricone, it’s action time.
As with all Wardrobe Theatre Christmas shows, it’s ridiculous fun, full of innuendo and sleaze and the kind of on-stage corpsing that makes the whole thing feel inclusive. Peta Maurice as the irascible bar worker Fists is particularly susceptible, and works brilliantly in duo with fellow Ugly Coyote member Clit (Jenny Smith). The moment where they show off their bar skills is brilliant, body-popping their way across the counter top while abusing audience members, and their cocktail mixing scene is genius. Elsewhere there is pistol masturbation, massive fake cleavages and jokes about crabs (the bad kind) – the memorable line “I’ve got Sheriff jizz on my leg”, delivered by matriarch Adelaide (Fowzia Madar) pretty much sums up the show.
As ever, the Wardrobe Theatre has managed to deliver on its promise of a Christmas show that is rude, hilariously impudent and essential. It continues to be inked into the festive calendar, as ingrained in the holiday season as Mariah Carey, heartburn and shit secret Santa presents. While many Christmas traditions are a chore, this remains an unmissable joy – the best-known yuletide secret in Bristol continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. After all, where else could you get scatological ventriloquism, jokes about Cribbs Causeway and Dolly Parton singing about the importance of not dating your own dad?