The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
December 10, 11, 12 & 13, 2014.
by Alan Ayckbourn
Dan Dryer – Neville
Lyn Snowdon – Belinda [his wife]
Sarah Charsley – Phyllis [Neville’s sister]
Matthew Arnold – Bernard [her husband]
Sarah Frost – Rachel [Belinda’s sister]
Phil Brown – Clive [Rachel’s Guest]
Tom Harris – Eddie [Neville’s friend]
Sophie Lane – Pattie [Eddie’s wife]
Dave Peaty – Harvey [Nev’s uncle]
Production Manager – Caroline Woodley
Stage Manager – John Garland
Lighting – Martin Oakley
Lighting – Mike Phillips
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Kieran Pollard
Wardrobe – Margaret Pierce
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Caroline Woodley
Propertiess – Anita Shipton
Propertiess – Di Tidzer
Set Construction & Painting – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Construction & Painting – Carl Gray
Set Construction & Painting – David Comber
Set Construction & Painting – David Collis
Set Construction & Painting – Sue Chaplin
Set Construction & Painting – Martin Oakley
Set Construction & Painting – Sheila Neesham
Set Construction & Painting – Margaret Davy
Set Construction & Painting – Gary Walker
Poster Design – Judith Berrill
Programme Design – Richard Joyce
Publicity – Peter Joyce
Publicity – Margaret Pierce
Publicity – Martin Oakley
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: Season’s Greetings
GT wrote: ” For our Christmas entertainment in the beautiful Barn Theatre we go back to a rich and reliable source. Given that he has so far written seventy-eight plays and I have seen or been involved with only some half a dozen, it’s perhaps a bit lazy of me to assert that Season’s Greetings is one of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s best.
Anyway I hope you’ll find it – as I did when I appeared in it myself a decade ago – not only very funny but also full of pathos, as played out by a houseful of hapless Ayckbourn moral backsliders and incompetents.
The proximity of one’s nearest and not-so-dearest can be pretty claustrophobic in the nicest of 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.
Bev and Nev seem a normal, likeable married couple, but their relationship is stale and the house is full of relatives and friends with similar problems and worse. we all know not to give the children too much sugar or it’ll end in tears. Red wine for the big kids – and the pulling of the odd emotional [and one real] trigger – has much the same effect. Now add to the mixture those old favourites sex and violence …
So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun – Look to the future now, its only just begun! ”
Publicity #1: Season’s Greetings
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: November 27 2014 issue – page 16
Reporter: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: “Ayckbourn ‘insists on perfection’ from cast”
WICK Theatre Company is delighted to have pulled off a coup for the December production. Dan Dryer joins the cast for Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Season’s Greetings, having previously worked directly with the celebrated director and writer. As an actor at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, under Ayckbourn’s artistic direction, Dan was only too aware of how important it was to be word perfect. He explained: “Ayckbourn insisted on 100 per cent accuracy in the delivery of the script. He was clear that as he had spent a long time writing it, he wasn’t going to have it messed around with by the actors.” Even every ‘um’ or ‘ahh’ in the script had to be reproduced exactly as it was written.
Dan added: “Ayckbourn was also known to rewrite sections that didn’t seem to be working, so we’d get a new chunk of script to learn overnight before the performance the next day.” But Ayckbourn was always hospitable, he recalled, including a party in the writer’s home. He noted Ayckbourn was happier observing and listening to the conversations of others rather than being the centre of them himself, though. Overhead snippets and astute observations of human behaviour have been the raw material for his celebrated plays over the last 55 years and the majority of his work has been premièred in Scarborough.
Season’s Greetings, which follows a rather dysfunctional family through the festive period, was based on Ayckbourn’s own family Christmases. “You’ve got three days together and there’s always bound to be at least a cousin no one can stand,” he said. “I’ve seen it at my own Christmases – two relatives arguing bitterly over who should sit in which chair.”
Dan plays Neville, the classic ‘shed man’, who shares Christmas with his wife Belinda [Lyn Snowden] [sic], shy novelist Clive [Phil Brown], sister Phyllis [Sarah Charsley] and her husband Bernard [Matthew Arnold], his uncle Harvey [David Peaty], Belinda’s sister Rachel [Sarah Frost], friend Eddie [Tom Harris] and his heavily-pregnant wife Patti [Sophie Lane].
Performances run from December 10 to 13, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, at 7.45pm daily. Tickets £11 box office 01273 597094
Publicity #2: Season’s Greetings
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: December 4 2014 issue – page 46
Correspondent: – Phil Hewitt
Text Header: “Festival fall-out at Ayckbourn’s hapless family gathering”
Graham Till indulges his soft spot for Ayckbourn with a production of Sir Alan’s Season’s Greetings for Wick Theatre Company. Performances run from Wednesday, December 10 to Saturday, December 13, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick.
Graham will take us into a house full of children that we never see. Instead, we will watch the adults descend into ever more childish behaviour as the pressures of the festive season weigh heavily on everyone. “I have always liked Ayckbourn, and I have been in this play before, some years ago – though I have never directed it until now. He has written such a lot of plays, and they are really a great gift for the amateur world. “Unfortunately, he is a little bit dismissed by the senior critics because he hasn’t got the mystery of Pinter or the pyrotechnics of Stoppard or the politics of Hare. But he is meticulous with character, Ayckbourn gives you a lot to think about, but he does not quite tell you how to do it so it never becomes boring”
Ayckbourn might be staple fare, but it is never straightforward: “In this play for instance, the set is divided into different rooms which gives you certain challenges such as how you show that and what instructions you give to the actors. Into these rooms, Ayckbourn drops a houseful of hapless moral backsliders and incompetents.
There’s Neville [Dan Dryer], who displays his Englishness by preferring his shed to his shed to his wife Belinda [Lyn Snowden] [sic], who seeks revenge by late-night stalking Clive [Phil Brown], the attractive shy novelist. There’s Harvey [David Peaty], recently retired from nearly getting involved in violence as a security guard and now feasting on TV versions of the same while working himself up for … well, bad behaviour. There’s Bernard [Matthew Arnold], a hopeless failure as a doctor including not currently his wife Phyllis [Sarah Charsley] of her hypochondria, predisposition towards accidental self-harm, ill-concealed fondness for the bottle or anything really; and there’s also an uncle given to subjecting his young audience to annual puppet shows of mind numbing boredom …
Topping up the guest number – and stirring the pudding nicely – are Nev’s not over-bright friend Eddie [Tom Harris] and his reluctantly heavily-pregnant wife, Pattie [Sophie Lane].
” Ayckbourn is saying Christmas can bring out the best in people, but also the worst! He likes to gently exaggerate situations we have at Christmas, where we are with people we really don’t want to be with. Mostly in real life we seethe and do nothing, but in Ayckbourn people seethe and do something!”
The characters are appealing, but certainly more complex than they might at first appear: “The temptation for amateurs is to find the dimension and to stick with it, but there is generally a lot more to the characters than the one dimension. These are properly-rounded characters.”
Graham’s preference is to act, but he insists there just aren’t the parts for him at his ‘advanced age’: “But there are certainly satisfactions to directing. The power! No, seriously, the real joy, particularly with the younger and less-experienced actors, is helping them see how they can develop a part and how they can draw it out.”
Any actor enjoys the applause of the audience in front of them, but as Graham suggests, when it comes to directing, there are subtler pleasures to be had. “You get a quieter form of reward.”
Curtain up is at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £11 on 01273 597094 or through www.wicktheatre.co.uk
Review #1: Season’s Greetings
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: December 18 2014 – page 64
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: “Humour and pathos of family festivities”
Christmas is the 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 n 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 of 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 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 i too buy watching television to care, Eddie [played by Tom Harris] reading his son’s book before it’s 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, so maybe they were smiling rather than laughing out loud.
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: December 12 2014
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Christmas is the time for families to gather – and for discord and mayhem to break out. Alan Ayckbourn’s black comedy demonstrates his mastery in depicting recognisable people and setting them on a farcical course while revealing a darker side to their lives. Feelings of marital dissatisfaction, inadequacy and failure surface, along with the realisation that one is laughing at another’s pain.
Gathered for the festivities are Belinda and Pattie, two wives treated with indifference by complacent husbands; Bernard, an inept doctor with an alcoholic wife; a virginal doormat with a new boyfriend; and a near-psychopathic uncle from hell.
Starting on Christmas Eve their antics are a series of disasters.
Graham Till’s production is taut, perfectly paced with a set that manages to fit three rooms on a small stage. The acting does full justice to the writing. There is a star turn from David Peaty as Uncle Harvey, ex-security guard turned thuggish vigilante. However Matthew Arnold’s good performance as the pathetic Bernard is marred by allowing his voice to drop when being diffident. Neglected Belinda is subtly portrayed by the excellent Lyn Snowdon who lifts her from the staleness of marriage with some outrageous flirting with her sister’s boyfriend.