Humour and pathos of family festivities

From left, David Peaty, Matthew Arnold, Lyn Snowdon, Sophie Lane, Phil Brown, Sarah Frost, Dan Dryer and Tom Harris
From left, David Peaty, Matthew Arnold, Lyn Snowdon, Sophie Lane, Phil Brown, Sarah Frost, Dan Dryer and Tom Harris

CHRISTMAS is a time for families – but that is not always a good thing.

Wick Theatre Company gave a snapshot of festive horrors, many of them easily recognisable in people’s own lives, in their production at The Barn Theatre last week.

Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Season’s Greetings turns little niggles into explosive situations as various relatives and friends gather for the festive period.

Director Graham Till explains: “The proximity of one’s nearest and not-so-dearest can be pretty claustrophobic in the nicest families, both physically and mentally.

“It’s an old cliché that Christmas is for the children, and a common observation that over this holiday in particular we adults act like children – though not necessarily in a good way.”

The cast did their best to bring out both the humour and the pathos, and there were some commendable individual performances.

The vibrant and beautiful Sarah Frost had to turn herself into dowdy and unsure Rachel. She rose to the challenge, proving how well her acting skills are developing.

David Peaty was hilarious as gun-toting Uncle Harvey, who was obsessed with weapons and not averse to a bit of violence, and Matthew Arnold portrayed Bernard well. He and Sophie Lane, playing Pattie, coped admirably with the puppet theatre, working in a fairly confined space with puppets that seemed determined to tangle themselves up.

The drama took us back to 1979, to the home of Belinda and Neville, and the costumes were evocative of the period.

One set has to incorporate a number of rooms, so it was all a bit tight for space. There were things going on in the lounge, dining room, kitchen, hall and on the stairs, sometimes all at once.

And plonked in the middle of the lot was a giant Christmas tree, which meant the cast were at times tripping over the presents beneath it. In fact, the pile seemed to keep growing of its own accord!

The play also gave them the challenge of co-ordinating different conversations in different rooms at the same time, meaning tight timing was essential.

Classic family situations that everyone must have experienced are highlighted, like the meal finally ready to be eaten just at the point where everyone is too busy watching television to care, Eddie (played by Tom Harris) reading his son’s book before its even been given to him as a present and Neville (played by Dan Dryer) taking a toy car apart on the dining table when the women are trying to lay it for tea. All very funny.

As a whole, it at times felt a little flat but I felt it deserved more laughs than it got on Thursday night. Many of the audience were overheard saying how excellent it all was, though, so maybe they were smiling rather than laughing out loud.