Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Christmas treat with dark centre

Season’s Greetings

Dudley Little Theatre


CHRISTMAS is a time for families and, well in Neville’s case, turmoil as relatives gather for the festive bickering and fighting.

There is Nev’s Uncle Harvey, played in wonderfully cantankerous mood by John Lucock, a man boasting 30 years in the security business and right wing enough to make the BNP look liberal.

He bemoans his perceived breakdown in society while glorying in extreme violence on TV.

Then there is Nev’s wife Belinda who is married to Nev  . . . and his shed. Theirs is an arm’s length marriage, long gone stale, and Debra Attwood gives us a wife who is frustrated in every sense of the word at a husband whose only interest is in things electric or mechanical and who spends most of his time at home in his workshop, while she spends most of her time fussing about and dressing the Christmas tree.

Staggering around is his sister Phyllis, the family lush, who lives her life in a near permanent state of being tired and emotional, played in a haze by Jenny Stanley.

Her husband is Bernard, who tries, unsuccessfully, to keep her off the booze, and is a contender for three awards; world’s most boring man, worst puppeteer and most terrible doctor.

Played beautifully by Kevin Stanley, his traditional Boxing Day puppet show is the stuff of legend, giving dire a bad name, while his rehearsal provides a gloriously funny scene with Harvey, already hated by Bernard, as the audience.

Rachel, played by Liane Purnell, is Belinda’s emotionally fragile sister. She is a spinster and, we discover; not much of note, if anything, has ever happened in her love life, except she now has a boyfriend, or maybe not, maybe just friend, who knows? She certainly doesn’t. She has invited him for Christmas.


The lucky man, or otherwise, is Clive, a less than famous writer with one book to his name, played by James Silvers.

Clive immediately falls in lust with Belinda, who sees fulfilment of at least part of her frustrations in young, available, and, perhaps most important, interested Clive, which is a moment of illicit passion to come later – serenaded by a very loud toy and a singing Christmas Tree. Don’t ask.

Then there is Pattie, played by Jane Williams, pregnant with her fourth child and married to the completely ineffectual Eddie, played by Phil Sheffield, Nev’s friend who used to work for him.

Pattie’s marriage is hardly lovey dovey, Eddie is never there, does little to help, she is carrying a child she doesn’t really want, and spends much of her time nagging Eddie, who is reluctant to do . . . well anything really.

Eddie has a bad case of hero worship for Nev, his friend and once his boss until Eddie, unwisely, set up on his own and failed and is now looking again for a job.

And Nev, played with an air of confidence which belies all that is going on around him by Tony Stamp, breezes through it all without a care in the world – except when there is that little indiscretion between Clive and Belinda and we see another, less convivial side. Even then though he finds a path he can travel along easily as if nothing had happened with threats of ominous consequences only for if his view was challenged.


Into this mix of misfits we have snakes and ladders, that terrible puppet show, meals that are . . . different, the concept that all train drivers are homosexuals, Rachel’s yes no sexual dilemma, and a dramatic ending with a death, or it might not be as doctor Bernard is responsible for the diagnosis.

As a play Season’s Greetings needs a decent pace and director Lyndsey Ann Parker has them moving at a fair old lick, and there were some nice touches, such as the instant mutual attraction of Clive and Belinda which leaves you knowing the likely outcome, it is just a question of when. Many productions don’t have the pair showing any interest until much later losing a little sexual tension along the way.

Full marks as well for the set building team who created the two rooms, a hallway and stairs of a typical suburban house.

Season’s Greetings is a farce, with plenty of funny lines but it has a darker side, beneath the surface it is also about relationships, relationships between couples and family members, which gives it a bit more bite than the usual fare of trousers up and down, in and out of bedroom farce.

So if you want a good festive laugh this is it, a Merry Christmas with a dark centre. To 06-12-14.

Roger Clarke


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