Season’s Greetings NODA Review

From Joanne Rymer for NODA

According to Cliff Richard, Christmas is a time for mistletoe and wine. It’s a time to rejoice, with logs on the fire and gifts on the tree. Clearly, he has never seen Alan Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings, which depicts a dysfunctional family Christmas that most audience members can identify with.

It is Christmas at Belinda (Caroline Kay) and Neville (David Oliver) Bunkers house and they have invited their family for a traditional Christmas celebration. The guests include: Neville’s alcoholic sister Phyllis (Julie Little); her husband Bernard, (Kevin Fishwick) a doctor whose annual puppet shows are the stuff of legend and terror to both young and old alike; Neville’s friend Eddie (Michael Webster) and his pregnant wife Pattie (Emma Cartledge); Uncle Harvey,(Graham Smith) a slightly senile retired security guard who loves guns, and is a television addict; Belinda’s unmarried sister, Rachel (Jane Wing); Clive (Adam Comer), a writer and friend of Rachel.

Clive arrives late by train, is missed by Rachel, and is instead welcomed by Belinda, who is immediately attracted to him. Harvey, as a result of a misunderstanding, takes an immediate dislike to Clive, believing him to be a homosexual and prospective thief. Clive falls for the frustrated Belinda after Rachel tells him she is looking for no more than friendship. He and Belinda attempt to fulfil their passions beneath the Christmas tree, but are discovered when they set off an electronic device, and lights beneath the tree in, their desperate attempts to turn everything off.

On Boxing Day, Clive arranges to leave as soon as he can. Meanwhile, rehearsals are taking place for Bernard’s puppet show.  The Three Little Pigs, all his efforts being undermined by Harvey. Bernard eventually snaps and tirades against Harvey. Very early the following morning, Clive case in hand, in the process of leaving, is intercepted by Harvey who believes he is a thief taking all the presents. Harvey promptly shoots Clive, who is pronounced dead by the ineffectual Bernard. The ‘corpse’ promptly lets out a moan and calls for Belinda, rather than Rachel. He is taken to hospital and Belinda and Neville are left together, Neville choosing to ignore all that has happened.

The family in Ayckbourn’s play is utterly dysfunctional, with several problematic marriages: a classic Ayckbournian plot.

The set opened with Uncle Harvey watching television in his armchair downstage left. The room is dressed for Christmas with tinsel, burbles and a Christmas tree, plus a central staircase to the upper floor.  It was not immediately obvious that it was indeed three rooms, more definition was needed.

David and Caroline are splendid as the Bunkers, spending most of the play bickering. I particularly enjoyed David’s emphasises on the word “darling” in a dry, sarcastic way. Meanwhile, Caroline puts on a smile, but is internally simmering with vexation. Delivering most of her dialogue through gritted teeth, it is clear that she would love to throttle her husband, who would blame her. Lovely performance

Eddie and Pattie is a couple with young children, another baby on the way: Eddie is out of work and would rather be with Neville in his shed or the pub. It was a lovely scene with Bernard and the puppets Emma.

Clive and Rachel appear incompatible,  doomed from the start, both played their characters well: however Adam did not seem comfortable as the author Clive.

Graham Smith is hysterical as the sardonic Uncle Harvey, delivering some cracking one liners, insisting on buying the children guns for Christmas. Julie Little certainly doesn’t disappoint as Phyllis, who spends most of the play inebriated. Her comic timing when questioning Clive regarding his homosexuality is priceless.

However, it is Kevin Fishwick who steals the show as failed husband, doctor, and puppeteer, Bernard. Totally believable delivery of this misunderstood man, the care and severity with which he treats his puppets borders on obsessive, and is strangely endearing. Lovely performanceKevin

Season’s Greetings is one if not the most popular of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays, audiences love the farce like quality of the piece.. This production from BDS  was no exception; the audience had a fabulous evening’s entertainment.

Thank you BDS for your invitation, I really enjoyed your performance, looking forward to The Girl on the Train in 2023.