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As Neville and Belinda Bunker prepare for the Festive Season, Neville has again forgotten to buy his wife a present, sister Rachel is in her usual state about her love life, Uncle Bernard is planning yet another of his interminable children's puppet shows, Uncle Harvey is growing more eccentric than ever, Patti and husband Eddie are at t heir customary loggerheads, whilst in the kitchen, Auntie Phyllis is drunk in charge of their dinner. All in all, just another typical Christmas for the Bunker family. Until, that is, something really disastrous occurs...Performers Liza Goddard (Belinda Bunker), Matthew Kelly (Neville Bunker), Matthew Cottle, Jason Baughan, Terence Booth, Bill Champion, Eliza Hunt, Alexandra Mathie, Alison Pargeter.
Author Alan Ayckbourn. Producer Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Producer Stephen Joseph Theatre. Director Alan Ayckbourn. Design Roger Glossop. Lighting Mick Hughes.
USER (16Nov04): UK National Tour, Birmingham Rep, 15 November 2004
Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in association with The Stephen Joseph Theatre present: Season’s Greeting by Alan Ayckbourn
A full house at The Rep enjoyed this Alan Ayckbourn Christmas classic with the added bonus of the production being directed by the man himself. The play picks away at the problems of family relationships and gets to the very heart of the stresses of bringing people together for the festive season. We all know what that’s like…
Matthew Kelly (Uncle Bernard) is the bumbling failure, a washout as a doctor and a poor puppeteer to boot. His scene of the rehearsal for the puppet show and the ensuing chaos brought the house down and his partner on stage, Alison Pargeter (the heavily pregnant Pattie) was hilarious. She was so still on stage to start with that she appeared almost marionette-like. And who could ever forget the grand finale at the hands of the manic Uncle Harvey.
The always stylish Liza Goddard caught in a midnight fling under the Christmas tree and fairy lights with Matthew Cottle (writer Clive) was superb and played being on the emotional edge elegantly and beautifully. Terence Booth’s character (Uncle Harvey) although first amusing turns out to be a highly dangerous and unhinged individual whose past work as a security officer wrecks any chance of a Merry Christmas and ultimately ends tragically.
Eliza Hunt plays Bernard’s wife Phyllis superbly and who cannot recognise the harassed cook caught in the kitchen tippling the drink and playing the martyr for the whole evening. She also makes a good go of a pass at Matthew Cottle, (author Clive) the writer of just one book and an apparent favourite with the ladies. Cottle makes the most of this role and has an air of disbelief at what is unfolding.
Alexandra Mathie plays left on the shelf literary secretary Rachel to perfection and one knows she just isn’t going to get her man this Christmas. The boring husbands that repair toys at Christmas are Bill Champion (Neville) and Jason Baughan (Eddie) both archetypal Ayckbourn men for whom DIY or a shed in the garden have become a refuge from any risk of emotional interaction. Brilliant.
The whole production is attractive and well set with excellent lighting and clarity of sound. Now, almost 25 years on, Season's Greetings remains just as fresh as when it was originally presented at Scarborough and should do very well especially as audiences will probably recognise something of their own families in the characters.
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