This well-conceived Ayckbourn comedy is well suited to the Tea Tree Players’ style and preferences. Director Samuel Creighton and his cast carried it off with energy and precise timing.
Creighton’s box set had all the necessities to assist the humour, especially by way of the servery doors joining the main room and kitchen.
The programme accurately refers to the play as a comedy/drama. Taking place at Christmas in the house of recently widowed Beth Timms, the action follows the often misplaced attempts by her family to cheer her up. That is complicated by the visit of her late husband, who persists with the irritating habits he had in life. There is fun to be had with this concept, but there is also an underlying serious theme.
As Beth, Lisa Wilton had some of the best gags and delivered them in a delightfully understated and for the most part self-deprecating way. Her real feelings for the late Gordon came through strongly. Fiona Stopp, her self-obsessed sister-in-law, Connie, was both highly entertaining and irritating. This latter characteristic was too much for one member of the appreciative audience who loudly declaring “Oh dear” when Connie appeared yet again in the servery, wine glass in hand.
Robert Donnarumma was both pious and smarmy as Rev. Grimseed, while Benjamin Forster was most energetic as Beth’s son Martin. Peter Collins impressed as the late Gordon, still self-righteously obsessing about workplace health and safety issues, even as they applied to his new eternal life. Jean Collins impressed as Ella with expressive silence for the bulk of her time on stage.
This was a well-paced and entertaining interpretation of a lively play.