I can't think of a single likeable character in the whole Ayckbourn pantheon '“ andÂ Season's GreetingsÂ is no different. Ayckbourn presents you with a group of unlikeable people in an unpleasant situation and lets them loose '“ and we, to our shame, laugh ourselves silly at their pain.
Here '“ unsurprisingly '“ it's Christmas and Belinda and Neville are celebrating with their extended family. Into the midst of this group comes a stranger who becomes an object of lust to two of the women, andÂ we're off.
First of all '“ top marks to the company as a whole for managing Ayckbourn's nightmarish dialogue. Rarely does he let a character finish a sentence before being interrupted and each scripted '˜Hmm', '˜Ah!' or '˜Well'¦' makes the learning of it all the more challenging.
As Belinda, Megan Green gives the finest work I've seen from her in many a year of watching Bench shows. Jeff Bone, too, is on fine form as the interloper and the scene in which she attempts to seduce him is managed beautifully.
Andy Rees and Janice Halsey make a wonderfully mismatched couple and Rees's puppet-show in the second act is joyous. Craig Parker shows expertise in the throwaway line and Mark Wakeman proves, once again, that a comic script is safe in his hands.
You would never want to experience a Christmas like this yourself, but vicariously it makes for an hilarious evening.