Ayckbourn Revival At SJT
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
A revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy, Season’s Greetings, directed by the playwright, himself, is in rehearsal at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre for its opening on 25 July. This is the first time it has been performed in Scarborough since it premiered at the SJT’s former home, Westwood, in 1980.
The plot has all the hallmarks of a typical Ayckbourn off-beat comedy and, as he reveals, it has an autobiographical element. It’s Christmas Eve and the middle-class couple Neville and Belinda have foolishly invited the whole family to spend Christmas with them. We just know there will be trouble. Indeed, tensions surface almost from the beginning.
Two cantankerous uncles, Harvey and Bernard, are at loggerheads over violence on the television. Harvey insists on watching it all the time while Bernard wants to rehearse his annual puppet show that bores everyone to tears. Neville and his work colleague, Eddie, are like two kids fiddling around with their Christmas Tree lights project much to the annoyance of the excluded womenfolk.
Triviality turns to seriousness when Clive, the writer arrives and Belinda, bored by her own marriage, is immediately drawn to him. The bibulous Christmas Day is when it all really kicks off after what had started as an innocent game of Snakes and Ladders. You need to see it to understand just what bitter-sweet high comic drama this most prolific of playwrights can get out of apparently ordinary domestic situations.
Sir Alan explains that the puppet show element of the play was originally inspired by his two sons mounting their own and his getting involved: “I remember Steven saying: ‘This is only meant to be fun!’ and running crying out of the room as I shouted: ‘It may be fun to you, but this is a show and we’ve got to do it professionally’. By the time it went on, all the joy had gone out of it. Afterwards I thought: ‘What the hell am I doing?’
It will be performed by a cast of nine: Matt Addis, Eileen Battye, Rachel Caffrey, Bill Champion, Andy Cryer, Michael Lyle, Frances Marshall, Mercy Ojelade and Leigh Symonds. The design is by Kevin Jenkins and lighting design by Jason Taylor.
Season’s Greetings can be seen in the Round at the SJT, in rep, from Thursday 25 July to Saturday 28 September 2019. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.
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Ayckbourn Revival At SJT, 7th July 2019, 17:45 PM