Current Season
Season's Greetings
by Alan Ayckbourn
1st – 6th December, 2008

Getting in the festive mood

Uncle Bernards wonderful puppet theatre

A reluctant santa

A toast to christmas

Synopsis

Half a dozen friends and relatives are celebrating Christmas with Neville and Belinda. Various children are also there and their presence is always felt, though they are never seen, and indeed seem to be duplicated in the adults. Squabbles break out and Christmas presents are rifled. Often hilarious and chaotic the play is one of Ayckbourn’s gems.

Cast

NevillePHIL HOLBROUGHBernardDAVID HELLIWELL
BelindaJACQUI SCOTTRachelSUSAN WARD
PhyllisPATRICIA CLOUGHEddieHOWARD CLEMENTS
HarveyDAVID THOMASPattieLISA JONES-TINSLEY
CliveSTEPHEN BLUNDELLDirectorJonathan Scott

Director's Notes

When our reading and casting committee asked me if I would like to direct this play I felt honoured and excited. This is my first by Ayckbourn and completely different from anything else I have attempted. On the face of it, it is a fairly simple play. Set over a few days during the Christmas holidays, family and friends get together to celebrate the season but personalities conflict, sex gets in the way, too much wine is drunk and inevitably all hell breaks loose.

Sir Alan however is not one of our greatest playwrights for nothing. A good friend told me recently that an Ayckbourn play is a bit like an onion; you peel off one layer to find another and another and so on, and each layer makes you cry tears of laughter, sadness or of frustration.

I am fortunate to have had a talented cast to assist me in this unpeeling; from old stalwarts (Jacqueline and Phil are in danger of being typecast as man and wife) to some new members. Backstage too, there is a great set designed by Oliver Lloyd which, at the time of writing, is being constructed by Graeme, John et al. Stage managed by Tony and Joann, props from the first day of rehearsal by Rosie, Jenny and team and wardrobes, lights and effects: all are pulling together as a great team. Also I include our publicity machine, so galvanised and professional in their support.

Back to the play. I contacted the Stephen Joseph Theatre recently for a bit of comment and advice. The first piece of advice was that I should get hold of a copy of Sir Alan's book, "The Crafty Art of Playmaking". I did and would recommend it to all budding writers, directors and actors.

I received two other pieces of advice. The first was that the play is written about a home that "swarms with children". The taller, older ones are on view - those going through that "awkward age" the 25 to 75 year olds, fighting over toys, clamouring for attention, bullying, sneaking and crying then kissing and making up and generally far too overexcited, as they always do every year at Christmas: The second was "Direct the play truthfully and have your actors play their roles truthfully. Do not look for laughs." The surest way to wreck an Ayckbourn play is to look for laughs. If the actors perform their roles honestly the laughter will come without pushing for it. Problems come when directors and actors try to make the play or lines funny. Play it seriously and the audience will find the laughter and tears for you.

I hope it works for you and, seriously, wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Jonathan Scott

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