In these chilly, recession-struck times, this gentle, if slightly dated Ayckbourn comedy feels like sinking thankfully into a warm bath. Featuring a middle-class Christmas shared by close friends and family, Season’s Greetings explores how we often miscommunicate with and misunderstand our nearest and dearest, with surprisingly touching, romantic moments along the way.
Once I’d worked out the set (the dividing walls between the three rooms are merely suggested) and the relationship between the nine characters (made harder by the occasional wide discrepancy between the character’s age and that of the actor!), I found much to enjoy here, from puppet shows and looters to bored housewives and handsome strangers.
Christopher Timothy gives a nicely understated performance as Uncle Bernard, while Dennis Lill (as Harvey) pirouettes around the stage with slick grace and perfect timing, and Mathew Bose (as Clive) is suitably awkward as the gauche outsider. Of the females, Sue Wallace as Phyllis contributes a great comic presence, and Barbara Drennan as pregnant Pattie is wonderfully dense but, for me, Jenny Funnell is outstanding, with her beautifully modulated voice (Brrrrrr! as she says on the ads) and subtle portrayal of the repressed spinster Rachel.
As with most Ayckbourn comedies, I felt that many of the issues raised remained under-explored, but these plays remain incredibly popular and this is a fine production of its kind, with chuckles aplenty, if not belly laughs. Like a warm bath, however, for me, it quickly cooled and any comfort gained was relatively short-lived.