Thursday, January 06, 2011

Theatre Review: Season's Greetings - National Theatre, London Saturday 18 December 2010

With a cast that included a Who-gasm triumvirate of Catherine Tate, David Troughton, AND Mark Gattis alongside Katherine Parkinson, Nicola Walker and Neil Stuke, with support from Jenna Russell, Mark Wootton and Oliver Chris --- well, I couldn't miss seeing THAT at Christmas time! Though please don't think I was being shallow in wanting to see this play: we've seen Tate on stage before and she is a wonderful comic actress, and I certainly couldn't pass the chance to see the rest of the cast either since they've all proven their acting chops on stage, TV and film.

Season's Greetings is by Alan Ayckbourn - that most English of playwrights - and has typical elements of farce edged with the most wonderfully bleak despair you could hope to get away with at Christmas.

We studiously ignored the reviews in advance - many were effusive, others much less so - and frankly Poly's opinion counts for more than any of the reviewers! And thank goodness we did go or else we would have missed out on splitting our sides with laughter and grimacing at the bleak humour the play offers. Despite the accusation that some parts are underwritten or that some of the cast have too little to do (alcoholic Phyllis, put upon Pattie and her incomprehensible husband Eddie are those most often critiqued in this way), we found the balance of the play wonderful.

I ended the first half in tears of laughter (I haven't laughed like that in the theatre for a long time) - farce may present the obvious in 'disasters' but our expectations are all the more sweetly enjoyable for that. I can struggle with slapstick, but in the right mood I love a good farce. But even better in some respects are the bleak aspects -- the disastrous puppet show, the disintegrating relationships, the never-visible children, the violence. All these have the own humour (a christmas where children are never seen?!) but there is domestic horror in the fractured lives on stage.

Whatever you do, don't discount this as just a play for Christmas - Season's Greetings first played from September 1980 and in this run plays until March 2011. I would definitely urge you to see it if you get the chance to go to London before the Spring.

The Stage
What's On Stage

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