27th – 30th November 2013
Cheating at snakes and ladders, fighting over comic books, a bungled infidelity beneath the tree, Christmas has arrived in the Bunker household along with family and friends. But as the children lurk just out of sight, it’s the adults who are letting the side down. Presiding over the festivities are two warring uncles, one a kindly, incompetent doctor with an interminable puppet show to perform, the other a bullying retired security guard who dominates the TV, brings toy guns for his nieces and determines there’s a thief in their midst.
Alan Ayckbourn’s play offers a seriously entertaining look at the misery and high jinks of an average family Christmas.
Neville: Pete Watt
Belinda: Jenni Collins
Phyllis: Brenda Prior
Harvey: Eric Saxton
Bernard: Paul Shave
Rachel: Mandy Clark
Eddie: Andrew Alexander
Pattie: Naomi Read
Clive: Phil Prior
Produced by Tracey Pearce
Newbury Weekly News review
Compton’s Christmas cracker
I often think the reason Alan Ayckbourn’s plays are so universally popular is because we see ourselves and our friends and families in all those comic lines and awkward situations.
Everyday things like the husband who can’t understand why it is so important for his wife to have him pour her drink, rather than the willing volunteer. The frustrated wife who can’t persuade her husband to go for a walk with the kids and her even though he promised to go earlier, and the special guest who tries to stay peacefully in the background but can’t avoid having his girlfriend in floods of tears, even though he has no idea what has upset her.
Compton Players’ production flowed steadily along at an ideal medium pace with some strong performances by Pete Watt as Neville, Brenda Prior as Phyllis, Mandy Clark as Rachel and Andrew Alexander and Naomi Read as Eddie and his wife Patti.
Phil Prior, as the unfortunate author Clive, underplayed nicely as a man putting up with hysterics one minute and a clumsy seduction attempt the next.
There were three very special performances but it should be noted that these actors had both the best parts and the best lines. Jenni Collins was most impressive as Belinda, the frustrated wife of Neville, and Eric Saxton, as Uncle Harvey, relished his role as a grumpy, sarcastic and very funny old boy, who drives everybody mad.
Best of all perhaps was Paul Shave’s performance as Bernard, a hopelessly incompetent doctor who bores everybody with an annual Christmas puppet show that has 16 excruciatingly horrible scenes, but thankfully we only had to sit through three. Or was it two? Paul’s performance made you think he really was Bernard, a man most people would endure torture to avoid talking to.
A bright, well-made set added to the enjoyment and Tracey Pearce’s smooth, skilled direction ensured an enjoyable night out.
ODN Newsletter review
The ‘Season’ is Christmas when families gather under one roof and, after drink has been taken, when all the old grievances surface. The ones we all keep nicely hidden for the rest of the year. Alan Ayckbourn does not disappoint – lots of laughs which turn to guilt when we realise we are laughing at, not with, his characters. Typical Ayckbourn – Is he really so cynical?Lovely Christmassy set designed by Helen Saxton and generally well acted by the experienced Compton Players – no prompts needed!The acting honours, however, must go to Eric Saxton as the curmudgeonly Uncle. His superb timing shows Ayckbourn as he should be interpreted. He had obviously studied the text and body language needed – all acting skills learned during his long theatrical career.Some nice ‘drunken’ acting from the Players – always difficult to play convincingly, and a great puppet theatre designed and built by Dave Hawkins.Compton Players used an extended stage to make three rooms and a dining area, creating a believable home for the actors to inhabit.
The full house enjoyed a good laugh, getting us all in the mood for Christmas – or not.