Brian Notcutt, Miranda Lewis, Barrie Howard, Anton Schafer, Shaun Browne and Angela Lee-Wright in "Season's Greetings"Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy ‘Season’s Greetings’ played to full houses and enjoyed rave reviews in its recent revival on the London stage.

This hilarious comedy is Ayckbourn at his best. Against the backdrop of a very traditional English Christmas, a family and some friends spend most of the time bickering, crying and generally behaving very badly. Bernard wants to entertain with his dismal puppet show; Phyllis wants recognition for her undercooked lamb; Rachel wants Clive; Clive doesn’t know what he wants; Harvey wants to arm women and children with guns; Eddie – he wants a beer. Just your average family Christmas!

This MVDS presentation of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Season’s Greetings’ opens at the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg, on Friday June 01 and runs until Saturday 09 June(excluding Sunday to Wednesday).

Weeknights are at 8pm and Saturdays at 2.30 and 6.30pm.  Tickets are R55 for Thursday evening and Saturday matinee and R65 for the rest of the run. (Masque Theatre Club Members enjoy a R10 discount).

To book phone 021 788 1898 or email bookings@masquetheatre.co.za.

Reviews:

SEASON’S GREETINGS

deur Alan Ayckbourn

met Shaun Browne, Barrie Howard, Miranda Lewis, Angela Lee-Wright, Brian Notcutt, Anton Schäfer, Kirsty Cunnington, Fiona Carling en Mark Jennings.

Regie: Coleen van Staden

Muizenberg Dramatic Society in die Masque, Hoofweg, Muizenberg. Tot 9 Junie

Deur DANIE BOTHA

Kersfees… Dis ’n feestyd met ’n wye verskeidenheid assosiasies. Die kakofonie van die katoeters wat Kersvader vir die kinders én grootmense gebring het. Die ooretery. Dis nou as ’n maltrap van ’n Phyllis (Fiona Carling) nie in die kombuis toegelaat word nie. Ja, vrede op aarde en in jou familie en vriende ’n welbehae.

Maar wanneer mense so op mekaar ingestel is, bly spanning nie uit nie. Julle kom op nuut of vir die eerste keer agter wat julle werklik van mekaar dink. Verhoudings word getoets. Irritasies lei tot uitbarstings.

Dis nou wat aan die gang is in  Neville (Brian Notcutt) en Belinda (Miranda Lewis) Bunker se huis. Alles kan om Neville vergaan as hy speelgoed vir kinders en vir volwassenes kan regmaak of uittoets. (Geluk, Angela Pratten, met die versorging van die rekwisiete en Gary Fargher wat dit met die beligting by die Kersboom laat werk het.) Gaandeweg sal dit blyk dat hy Belinda nie oorlaai met aandag nie. Daarom gebeur daar wat daar gebeur tussen haar en die inderdaad aantreklike jong skrywer Clive (Mark Jennings).

Rondom Clive ontstaan uitbarstings in trane en diepe selftwyfel. Rachel (Kirsty Cunnington) het hom uitgenooi, maar hulle loop mekaar mis sodat hy dan eerste vir Belinda ontmoet. Nou kan Ruth nie besluit hoever sy haar kan oorgee aan Clive nie, watter deel van haar syne kan word nie.

Ook word hy van diefstal verdink, en van homoseksualiteit, en hy word verwond – ek wil nie die intrige verklap nie.

Genoeg om te sê dat daar ’n oom Harvey (Shaun Browne) is met baie ervaring as veiligheidswag. Dié verslaafde aan televisie treiter nogal vir oom Bernard (Barrie Howard), die ou doktertjie wat almal se Kersfees wil ontwrig met sy uuuuitgerekte poppespel. Wanneer Bernard hom teen Harvey verset, is dit die aanloop tot geweld.

Hier is ook ’n jonger egpaar in die prentjie: Eddie (Anton Schäfer) en Pattie (Angela Lee-Wright). Hulle dra die las van ouerskap, wat spanning tussen hulle veroorsaak.

Regisseur Coleen van Staden skep nie ‘n uitgelate klug nie, maar handhaaf eerder ‘n  komediestyl met heelwat realisme. Te heerlik ook om te sien hoe sy ‘n verwikkeling in die intrige aankondig en beklemtoon met ‘n indrukwekkende sterk toneel. Ek dink in hierdie verband aan die aankoms van Neville, hoe hy en Belinda dadelik mekaar intens rááksien; aan Bernard wat opbou in sy uitbarsting teenoor Harvey en Harvey wat skielik anders lyk en hom dan grootogig etlike pouses lank aankyk en daarna met ’n gedrae dreiging wegstap; Eddie en Pattie wat soveel in stilte na mekaar oorsein op die trap; Eddie wat met ‘n geanimeerdheid goed opskiet met Neville;  Rachel in haar emosioneelheid; Phyllis se triomfantelike eerste binnekoms; Clive en Belinda wat draai en swaai op soek na die beste liefdesnes in die vertrek; en dan kan jy jou ook verkneuter as Neville so volkome in beheer van sy emosies is en met ysigheid triomfeer oor  Belinda.

Oor Bernard se poppespelvertoning: die deelnemers daaraan ( veral Howard, Lee-Wright en Schäfer) verdien ‘n pluimpie dat hulle dit so oortuigend laat skeefloop  het. En een vir June Edwards, Peter Ford en Val Stephens wat oom Bernard se pronkteater geskep het.

Nou kom ek by die dinge waaroor ek vrae  had. Baie mense beskou Kersfees as ‘n kinderfees. By hierdie saamtrek  is daar ook kinders, maar jy sien of hoor hulle nooit. Een van hulle word darem ‘n karakter, want sy ma moet sy pa herhaaldelik vra om hom te gaan nag sê. Van Staden eerbiedig die  hoogservare  dramaturg. Daar was al wel geselskappe wat die kinders ten tonele gebring het. Dit beteken dan seker geïmproviseerde dialoog en vasbyt vir die regisseur en verhoogbestuur om kinders op ‘n verhoog te hanteer. Maar aan die ander kant sê Ayckbourn dat hy wou oordra dat hierdie volwassenes hulle soos kinders gedra en daarom nie die kinders wou laat sien nie. Nee, dit  klink vir my te uitgedink en geforseerd. Netsoos die realistiese geweld van die slot my nie heeltemal oortuig het nie. Weer betoog Ayckbourn: Neville-hulle se aanvaarding van die skietery is lewensgetrou. Almiskie. Ek het verwag dis een van oom Harvey se wapens wat hy vir die kinders geskenk het. Waarom was hierdie toneel so lank in skemerte gehul? Elke keer as ‘n karakter opkom, wou jy skreeu: Sit aan die lig! Maar nou ja, die dramaturg sal nie my klag hoor nie en Van Staden is ‘n voorbeeldige regisseur.

Ek wonder ook oor Harvey wat so opgewonde oor ‘n dooie, klanklose televisie raak, dit terwyl dinge origens so realisties daaraan toegaan. Uit oorsese resensies lyk dit asof sy tonele in ‘n ander vertrek was, dat ‘n draaiverhoog gebruik is. Ek het nie ‘n voorstel nie; is net terselfdertyd bly dat die spelers nie met televisieklanke hoef te kompeteer nie.

‘n Goedversorgde produksie met heelwat om te geniet en te bewonder.

LIESKE BESTER reviews

This theatrical satirist is renowned for his sceptical and often cynical look at human nature and the current offering at the Masque Theatre is a fine example of his craft.  His plays and characters need strong and discerning direction and finely tuned performances to turn a seemingly ordinary scenario into a sequence of tragi-comic revelations.

This production meets those requirements on all levels and benefits from a brilliant setting, an impressive lighting design, excellent music selection and ingenious sound effects.

I wish directors would use the stage curtains more often for scene changes especially when there is a time break in the story line.

It would be churlish to reveal too much about the story line as much of the enjoyment comes from its capriciousness.

Christmas may be the season of goodwill for many families but the annual celebration in the home of Neville and Belinda has never been noted for its congeniality.  This year may well be remembered as the worst of them all.

Shaun Browne’s Harvey is a loudmouthed sample of racism, intolerance, with a predilection for violence.  The staleness of many marriages is perfectly portrayed by Miranda Lewis (Belinda) and Brian Notcutt (Neville), making Belinda’s conduct a logical consequence.    In the roles of Pattie and Eddie, Angela Lee-Wright and Anton Schäfer depict the dreariness of a marital union that can only get more dismal over time.

Kirsty Cunnington convinces as Rachel, single but yearning for pairing and Mark Jennings (Clive) is fittingly bemused, bewitched and bewildered by his environment.  Fiona Carling lights up the stage and the family as the uncomplicated and upbeat Phyllis and as the timorous Bernard, Barrie Howard effectively combines expressive body language and corresponding verbal delivery with a sure sense of comic timing.

The state of the art puppet theatre, backdrops and puppets created by June Edwards, Peter Ford and Val Stephens set the scene for the hilarious highlight of the play – which is a marvel of acting and interacting.

The play really takes off in the second half of Act 1 and from then twinkles along until the angel at the top of the tree signals the end of the high jinks.

SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews:

DYSFUNCTIONAL takes on different dimensions with this family. In Belinda and Neville Bunker’s house (Miranda Lewis and Brian Notcutt) for the Christmas weekend is their uncle – security guard and violence TV addict Harvey (a cantankerous Shaun Browne). Then there is ham-handed cook and tippler Phyllis married to Bernard – a doctor who fancies himself as a puppeteer (Fiona Carling and Barrie Howard); pregnant Pattie and her layabout out-of-work husband Eddie (Angela-Lee Wright and Anton Schafer) and Belinda’s 38 year-old neurotic unmarried sister Rachel (Kirsty Cunnington). She’s secretly in love with Clive (Mark Jennings) a one-book author she’s invited to spend Christmas with the Bunker’s and with whom Belinda immediately connects and… gets caught in a compromising situation.

Swinging Christmas jingles, gaily wrapped presents surrounding a Christmas tree Belinda decorates, some fairy lights adorning a wintery leafless tree as well as much talk about their children’s excitement are outward trappings of Christmas festivities However, the only Christmas spirit comes from alcoholic beverages as this idiosyncratic bunch spar.

The men keep busy doing their “own thing.” Their women folk do the same – mainly because their husbands ignore them.

In typical Alan Ayckbourn writing there is much humour, but an underlying pathos. The love the three couples once shared has given way to mundane existence. Yet the wives and Rachel (she succeeded in her funny tongue-twister attempt to woo Clive) haven’t given up on passion, and therein lies much of the comedy.

Also typical of Ayckbourn is the need for a strong cast and experienced director Colleen van Staden chose her team well. Nine people on the small, Masque stage set with furniture, could have hampered easy flowing movement. Yet apart from newcomer Jennings as the rather hapless Clive, the rest brought years of theatre involvement to their parts and it showed. Each drew excellent tightly woven character portraits clearly playing out their feelings.

Particularly well cast was Howard as the dithering, ineffectual Bernard. His puppet scene – when he spoke in the high squeaky voice reminiscent of Robin Williams’s Mrs Doubtfire – convulsed the audience. Notcutt’s Neville showed just the right amount of self-centeredness as he fiddled away with gadgets..his passion. While Schafer’s selfish Eddie didn’t deserve the love his gentle wife Pattie gave him. Glamorous Carling kept her tipsy act under control as did Lewis as Neville’s frustrated wife. However there could have been more obvious sexual spark between Clive and herself considering that on their relationship hinged much of the play’s plot.

An anomaly in Ayckbourn’s writing was bringing in Father Christmas (Jennings in disguise) on Boxing Day to hand out presents as traditionally in England – where Season’s Greetings is set – presents are given and received on Christmas Eve or Day. However, Ayckbourn shows strong psychological insight into how patriarchal behaviour brings families into crisis. It is worth seeing. To book call 021 788 1896.