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Season's Greetings

by Alan Ayckbourn

9th to 16th December 2017

“The thing about Christmas is that people who may not actually like each other are forced into close proximity and have to pretend to be chummy and full of benevolent yuletide cheer if only for the sake of the kids. Add large quantities of alcohol and you have a reliable recipe for disaster.   Neville Bunker and his wife Belinda are the hosts, entertaining a former colleague of Neville’s and his heavily pregnant wife. Both marriages are unhappy, the husbands are complacent bores, the wives feel unloved and neglected, but almost everyone in this play is either vile or wretched. Other guests include Neville’s alcoholic sister and her hopeless GP of a husband, the latter preparing for his annual puppet show, and Belinda’s virginal unmarried sister, who has invited her new boyfriend.  The explosive cherry on the comic cake is Neville’s near-psychopathic security guard of an uncle, who wears a knife strapped to his calf, is giving all the kiddies guns for Christmas and has prepared a few nasty surprises for the grown-ups too.  What’s remarkable is how much hilarity Ayckbourn wrings out of misery and cruelty.   But laugh we do, even in the midst of the emotional carnage, as an illicit sexual tryst under the Christmas tree is interrupted by a mechanical toy, a desperately unhappy wife tries to rouse her husband from a drunken stupor and in the explosive finale, violent death suddenly enters the scenario.  As Samuel Beckett once bleakly observed, nothing is as funny as other people’s unhappiness”. (Charles Spencer – Daily Telegraph)