Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough – until 28 September 2019
Reviewed by Sara Garner
Season’s Greetings is a comedy play written by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn in 1980 which premiered at Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1980.
Set in the home of hosts Neville and Belinda spanning 4 days over the festive period from Christmas Eve onwards. Anxiety, boredom and frustration mixed with copious amounts of alcohol can only lead to mayhem.
We are introduced to Uncle Harvey (Bill Champion) and Uncle Bernard (Leigh Symonds), who argue over a violent film that is watched every year at Christmas. Neville (Matt Addis) and his ex work colleague Eddie (Michael Lyle) are preoccupied over his latest invention – a remote control that turns on the lights and music on the Christmas Tree which Neville’s’ wife Belinda (Frances Marshall) is decorating. Heavily pregnant Pattie (Mercy Ojelade) (Eddie’s wife) is trying to get the unseen children to sleep. We sense that both marriages are desperately unhappy, wives feel unloved and disregarded and we can sense the frustration in their relationships from this 1st scene and throughout the play.
Other guests include Phyllis (Eileen Battye) Neville’s alcoholic sister who is trying to cook Christmas Eve dinner. We get the sense that she is accident prone and a serious of incidents occur which has her bumbling husband Bernard who is a hopeless GP running back and forwards to intervene. Belinda’s unmarried virginal sister Rachel (Rachel Caffrey) who is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her new boyfriend Clive (Andy Cryer).
Black comedic scenes occur with Uncle Harvey an ex security guard with psychopathic tendencies. Clive and Belinda develop a mutual attraction which develops more over Christmas day and culminates in a thwarted attempt to have sex in which a drumming toy bear is set off and rouses everyone in the house. Bernard attempts to go through his dreaded protracted boxing day puppet play. This ensues with a frustrated grabbing the puppets angering Bernard.
As in most of Aycbourn’s plays I felt that Season’s Greetings took time for the comedy to come to fruition. The characters need establishing and dramatic situations are set up. All families are dysfunctional even more so at Christmas time. Trapped in a home with relatives and friend and their children from Christmas Eve Season’s Greetings can resonate with audience. Hilarious at times, frustrating at others.