Season’s Greetings, written by Alan Ayckbourn in 1980, is a black though often farcical comedy, especially in this production, about four days in the life of a dysfunctional family, starting on Christmas Eve and set in a typical suburban house. It has been imaginatively chosen as the third and final production in this autumn’s highly successful ‘weekly rep’ season at Leatherhead Theatre.
One of the reasons for the undoubted success of this particular play is the witty yet often poignant direction by Guy Slater, for many years artistic director of the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke, when it, too, was a producing regional theatre. In only six days of rehearsal, he has been able to shape the play as the playwright intended, ensuring frantic pace when required and getting us to laugh at situations which are in fact tragic. The most hilarious, and I mean that word, is the highly complex scene after the interval in which there is action and conversation, including a rehearsal of an awful puppet play, in all three rooms of the downstairs of the house at the same time – the set cleverly designed by Christina Cammarota, so that the audience can see and hear everything which is happening with ease.
The director has succeeded in getting his players to work together as a real ensemble, sparring lines off each other so that the laughs really do come thick and fast as intended.
It is perhaps unfair to single out any one of the cast as there is not a weak link, but Hannah Brackstone-Brown impresses as Belinda, enduring a stale marriage to Neville (a beautifully understated performance by William Hazell) especially in her midnight romp on the floor with Clive, (Samuel Lane as a very believable ‘one novel’ author).
Edmund Dehn, permanently sitting in front of the television watching war films, is suitably aggressive as Harvey, especially in the scene where he mistakes Clive for a burglar: we all know someone like him!
Bernard, a very ineffective GP was very believable in the hands of Keith Hill as was Claire Dyson in the role of Phyllis – seemingly always on the edge of disaster: her duologue with Clive about ‘homosexual train drivers’ was eye-wateringly funny!
Pattie, permanently pregnant was in the very capable hands of Emma Mulkern and one felt so sorry for her being married to such a lazy good-for-nothing as Eddie (Vinnie Monachello).
Rachel, Belinda’s befuddled sister, was amusingly portrayed by Katherine Mount.
Mention must be made of the amusing carols played between each scene, which contained more and more ‘wrong’ notes as the play crashed towards its denouement – yet another clever touch by the director: can one hope that he is asked to direct again next season? Lighting design was in the very capable hands of Dan Smith.
This is the most successful of the three rep productions this season: it is genuinely very funny, and the perfect antidote to a traditional British ‘family’ Christmas get-together. Whether or not you know the play (which has not dated one iota in the last 38 years), and especially if you don’t! I do urge you to get the train from Waterloo to Leatherhead (20 minutes!) and have a wonderful 150 minutes with Alan Ayckbourn: as always he makes you laugh out, and cry, as last night’s audience certainly did. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! SUPERB!
Review by John Groves
What could ever go wrong at a family Christmas? As friends and relatives gather at Neville and Belinda’s house to celebrate the festive period, relationships strain and nerves run high.
An unexpected guest, a grumpy uncle with a shotgun and Bernard, intent on performing his puppet show under any circumstances all make for a rip-roaring comedy at just the right time of year.
Writer – Alan Ayckbourn
Director – Guy Slater
Stage Manager – Teresa Barlow,
Lighting Designer – Dan Smith
Set Designer – Christina Cammarota
Graphic Designer – Wayne Dowden
Crew – Martin Garwood, Stan Masters,
Zoe Triantafillou, Shelly Clement, Des Hanreck, Vince Hudson
Harvey – Edmund Dehn
Bernard – Keith Hill
Belinda – Hannah Brackstone-Brown
Pattie – Emma Mulkern
Neville – William Hazell
Eddie – Vinnie Monachello
Rachel – Katherine Mount
Clive – Samuel Lane
Phyllis – Claire Dyson
Seasons Greeting – Leatherhead Rep
Tuesday 20th – Saturday 24th November 2018
by Alan Ayckbourn