A real church choir carolling in the foyer, but that's about as far as peace and goodwill go in Ayckbourn's classic Christmas comedy, revived by LADS in the Tractor Shed.
It's done, if not in the round, then at least on the floor, as the playwright intended, with a nice set including a landing, with bedrooms off, and the dining room and lounge right under the audiences noses. It obviously proved a bugger to light, though; the hall was often in total darkness, for instance – a scene played in the dark should not mean a scene with no lighting whatever.
The festive season often throws families together, causing tension, tempers and drunken tears. Here, we have Neville [Daniel Tunbridge] and his bright young wife Belinda [Jamie-Leigh Royan]. Into their suburban home come childless doctor Bernard [a nicely fussy performance from Robin Warnes] and his dypso wife Phyllis [Eileen Judd]. And ex-colleague Eddie [David Hudson], with Pattie, his heavily pregnant wife [a convincing sense of desperation from Carole Hart]. Here's Bel's spinster sister, with her duffle coat and lisle stockings [Vicky Melhuish] who's picked up an author at her book group – Alan Elkins making an intense, bemused Clive.
And, discovered in front of the TV watching a seasonal action movie, is Uncle Harvey, excellently characterised by Keith Spencer.
There were some very amusing scenes, like the drumming bear in the farcical close to Act One, or the awkward encounter between Belinda and Clive. And, of course, the priceless puppet show, with Bernard increasingly frustrated by his incompetent stage-crew, and a cynical Harvey the chief critic at the dress rehearsal.
But I was left with the feeling that there was more to the play than we were getting – not all of the actors explored the depth of their character – like all of Ayckbourn's work, the farce and the fun are only the surface …
Season's Greetings was directed, as it was in the Village Hall back in '85, by Gavin Rouse. It was good to be down with the action – we could almost have handed Bernard his Third Pig – feeling as cosy as one can in a vast agricultural outbuilding.