Season's Greetings by Alan Ayckbourn, adapted by Richard Wigmore

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BBC Radio 7, 20 December 2009
A family gathered together for the Christmas holiday, each member locked within their self-obsessed world; harassed housewives; self-interested husbands; a psychopathic grandfather; a doctor unable to make correct diagnoses; and an interloper treated suspiciously by everyone. We are back in Ayckbourn-land; that safe, comfortable middle-class environment in which gender roles remain resolutely fixed and no one can envision any escape. Sometimes I get the feeling that his characters are simply variations on the familiar stereotypeL Belinda (Maggie McCarthy) could easily fit into The Norman Conquests, while her husband Neville (Nicky Henson) comes from Absent Friends. The only truly original character is Harvey (Peter Vaughan) a sixtysomething retired security guard with a love for violent cowboy films and a pathological suspicion of strangers. He delights in being sadistic to Bernard (Ronald Herdman) a pathetic excuse for a man who spends all his time preparing puppet shows that no one wants to see. Harvey also has a pathological suspicion of Clive (Guy Holden) a writer - and in Harvey's opinion probably a homosexual because he pursues an 'arty' profession. The play builds to a melodramatic climax in which Harvey wounds Clive with a shotgun in the belief that the writer is about to steal the family's Christmas presents. This is clearly not the case: Clive merely wants to leave the house early to return back to London. After that most of the family members disperse, remaining blissfully unaware of the significance of what has happened. In Ayckbourn's view they will reconvene every Christmas, do exactly the same things, and remain equally ignorant.
Gordon House's production had some good performances, notably from Vaughan - a truly sinister figure with a pitiless rasp to his voice - and from Henson, whose air of false bonhomie concealed a fundamentally violent and self-interested nature. When he suspected Clive of having an affair with his wife Belinda. he threatened to tear the unfortunate writer limb from limb. That aside. the experience of listening to Ayckbourn for me is rather like wearing some old Hush Puppies - very reassuring, but neither original nor stylish.