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A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters – Hope Theatre

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters
A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters

For those, like me, not really in the know, a round robin letter or Christmas letter, is a letter, typically included with a Christmas card and sent to multiple recipients at the end of the year, in which the writer describes the year’s events for himself and/or their family. I had vaguely heard of round robin letters but thought they were some American thing I need not concern myself with. However, they are apparently, part of the Christmas tradition of the UK as well and so I had my first experience of them at The Hope Theatre with the wonderfully titled A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters.

We are welcomed into the home of Kate (Kate Russell-Smith) and Claire (Claire Lacey). The two of them have obviously been together for ages and their home is nicely furnished with a wonderfully squidgy sofa in the middle of the room. As they are talking with their guests, a bag arrives full of round robin letters. This is obviously a standard occurrence as, almost as soon as it arrives, the ladies are going through the contents and dissecting the letters both for what they do say and, more importantly for what they don’t. A very pleasant way to spend the evening you might think, catching up on the news from friends, family and acquaintances.

So, any play that has one of my favourite words in the English language, Curmudgeon, in the title is automatically on a winner for me, which means I was feeling good before we even started. Once we got into the theatre, saw the way it had been laid out and were welcomed by our two lovely hosts, I had the feeling this was going to be a great evening and, it really did turn out to be so. Adapted by Scott Le Crass from the book “The Cat That Could Open The Fridge” by Simon Hoggart and is a wonderful window into the world of a certain type of people. Remember how Bridget Jones used to talk about the ‘Smug Marrieds’? Well, A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters takes it that one step further into the world of the ‘Smug Family’. I would have thought that in these days of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, there was no need for a round up at the end of the year, but they still go on and this production beautifully illustrates the sort of things people say and claims they make. Alongside a lot of humour, the funniest parts are when folks describe their children, all of whom are either child prodigies that would put Mozart to shame or have a wonderful vitality about them that more than compensates for their lack of achievements.

However, behind all the frivolity, there is more going on, and two people aren’t really giving anything away about their own year. Claire and Kate have obviously been through some stuff, and occasional snippets from the many letters they receive, trigger unwelcome memories for the two, which, thanks to some absolutely first rate acting by the two ladies changes the atmosphere from hilarity to an indefinable something where even a cough seems to be too intrusive on their shared emotions. What they had been through is not revealed but was the subject of a long conversation between my companion and me as we walked back to the station afterwards. As well as adapting the book, Scott Le Crass also directs A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters. And has got everything, from the real Christmas tree in the corner to the casting absolutely spot on.

Talking of the acting, full praise to Kate and Claire who, from the moment we walked in made the atmosphere so warm and friendly that it really did feel like we had dropped in on a couple of old friends – obviously still devoted to each other after all these years together – for a Christmas drink and chat.

All told then A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters is a fabulous Christmas show. I loved the reading and analysis of the letters, the glimpse into Kate and Claire’s lives and the general welcoming atmosphere of the whole production. In fact by the end, I was regretting the fact I don’t receive round robin letters at Christmas from my family, friends and, yes, even from that bloke I met at the SROC conference in Loughborough last year. However, watch out everyone because 2018 will be the year of the first Tezza round robin.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

For those, like me, not really in the know, a round robin letter or Christmas letter is a letter, typically included with a Christmas card and sent to multiple recipients at the end of the year, in which the writer describes the year’s events for himself and/or their family. I had vaguely hear of round robin letters but thought they were some American thing I need not concern myself about. However, they are apparently, part of the Christmas tradition of the UK as well and so I had my first experience of them at The Hope Theatre with the wonderfully titled A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters.

We are welcomed into the home of Kate (Kate Russell-Smith) and Claire (Claire Lacey). The two of them have obviously been together for ages and their home is nicely furnished with a wonderfully squidgy sofa in the middle of the room. As they are talking with their guests, a bag arrives full of round robin letters. This is obviously a standard occurrence as, almost as soon as it arrives, the ladies are going through the contents and dissecting the letters both for what they do say and, more importantly for what they don’t. A very pleasant way to spend the evening you might think, catching up on the news from friends, family and acquaintances.

So, any play that has One of my favourite words in the English language, Curmudgeon, in the title is automatically on a winner for me, which means I was feeling good before we even started. Once we got into the theatre, saw the way it had been laid out and were elcomed by our two lovely hosts, I had the feeling this was going to be a great evening and, it really did turn out to be so. Adapted by Scott Le Crass from the book “The Cat That Could Open The Fridge” by Simon Hoggart.and is a wonderful window into the world world of a certain type of people. Remember how Bridget Jones used to talk about the ‘Smug Marrieds’? Well, A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters.takes it that one step further into the world of the ‘Smug Family’. I would have thought that in these days of Facebook, Twitter and other Social media, there was no need for a round up at the end of the year, but they still go on and this production beautifully illustrates the sort of things people say and claims they make. Alongside a lot of humour, the funniest parts are when folks describe their children, all of whom are either child prodigies that would put Mozart to shame or have a wonderful vitality about them that more than compensates for their lack of achievements.

However, behind all the frivolity, there is more going on, and two people aren’t really giving anything away about their own year. Claire and Kate have obviously been through some stuff, and occasional snippets from the many letters they receive, trigger unwelcome memories for the two, which, thanks to some absolutely first rate acting by the two ladies changes the atmosphere from hilarity to an indefinable something where even a cough seems to be too intrusive on their shared emotions. What they had been through is not revealed but was the subject of a long conversation between my companion and me as we walked back to the station afterwards. As well as adpating the book, Scott Le Crass also directs A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters. And has got everything, from the real christmas tree in the corner to the casting absolutely spot on.

Talking of the acting, full praise to kate and Claire who, from the moment we walked in made the atmosphere so warm and friendly that it really did feel like we had dropped in on a couple of old friends – obviously still devoted to each other after all these years together – for a Christmas drink and chat.

All told then A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters.was a fabulous Christmas show. I loved the reading and analysis of the letters, the glimpse into Kate and Claire’s lives and the general welcoming atmosphere of the whole production. In fact by the end, I was regretting the fact I don’t receive round robin letters at Christmas from my family, friends and, yes, even from that bloke I met at the SROC conference in Loughborough last year. However, watch out everyone because 2018 will be the year of the first Tezza round robin.

It’s that time of year when people are showered with round robin letters that display all manner of smugness, boasting and oversharing. A married same sex couple receive an abundance of letters from ‘friends’ and cquaintances documenting in mundane and intricate detail the year that has past.

Cast: Susie Riddell – Susie plays gobby Tracey Horrobin in BBC Radio Four’s The Archers
Kate Russell-Smith – BBC Three’s Coconut, Silent Witness.
Creatives: Producer HK Entertainment Group
Writer Simon Hoggart
Adaptation/Direction Scott Le Crass
Original Music Conor Mitchell

Listings Information
A CURMUDGEON’S GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS ROUND ROBIN LETTERS
SCOTT LE CRASS (AFTER SIMON HOGGART)
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
5DEC– 23DEC 2017
www.thehopetheatre.com

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