Family Christmases were cited as 'unreasonable behaviour' in the Rev Stan/Christmas divorce. Since the decree absolute came through we've got along swimmingly so was Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings at the National Theatre the ghost of Christmas past, the memories too painful to find funny or an amusing confirmation of why it never worked in the first place?
Well first of all if Oliver Chris had been at any of those Christmases then things might have been a lot different *pause for sigh*. He plays Clive, friend of Rachel (Nicola Walker) for whom the friend moniker falls short of where she'd like things to go.
Rachel invites Clive to her sister Belinda (Catherine Tate) and husband Neville's (Neil Stuke) for Christmas where they are joined by Uncle Harvey (David Troughton), sister in law Phyllis (Jenna Russell), her husband Bernard (Mark Gatiss) and friends Eddie (Marc Wootton) and his wife Pattie (Katherine Parkinson).
So while Rachel is failing to move things on with Clive, he's caught the eye of Belinda who is feeling unloved and neglected by gadget-loving husband Neville. Phyllis likes a drink or three while husband Bernard is an incompetent doctor bent of putting on yet another epic puppet show for the kids. Eddie meanwhile is an expert in avoiding duties of any sort for heavily pregnant wife Pattie who really would rather not be having another baby.
Such are the ingredients for Ayckbourn's black comedy which follows four days over the festive period as expectations are unmet, traditions trampled and disappointment layered on like congealed brandy butter - sound familiar? Add to the mix three relationships in need of heart massage and a puppet show and you have a poignant and farcical comedy that at times makes for painful laughter (in both senses of the word).
Season's Greetings isn't going to win any awards for social commentary, indeed at times it feels a little dated even if some of sentiment transcends its early 80's setting. But the talent of Tate et al shines even those with underused roles.
And it certainly didn't exorcise any ghosts of Christmases past for me but if you are looking for something entertaining and strangely appropriate for the festive season then get a nice glass of something warming and give this a go.
Season's Greetings runs in rep at the Lyttleton until March 13 and this was the second preview performance and I give it three and a half stars - the extra half for the lovely Mr Chris.
Another easy one and another Cock-related connection in the space of 24 hours: Katherine Parkinson of course starred with Mr W in the aforementioned Royal Court production last year.
But as I don't like to stop at one when it is so easy: The lovely Oliver Chris also appeared in the TV series Nathan Barley in which Mr W famously played Pingu.
Ben Daniels nearly kicked my drink over trying to get to his seat but was very polite about it. I must admit I wouldn't have known who it was had Poly not pointed him out.