We have all experienced at least one disastrous Christmas, where the turkey is inedible or the cranberry sauce is missing, but Sam Holcroft’s version of a family Christmas is altogether torn apart. Awaiting the return of male patriarch Francis, Edith cleans her way through despair, whilst her two sons Adam and Matthew set the table for the expectation of a perfect family lunch. However, war breaks out over the dining table, and an indulgent farce is embarked upon.
“You must..!” Christmas Day will never be the same again. As the drinks flow and the obligatory games intensify, family resentments rise and relationships are pulled apart with a bang – like oh so many Christmas crackers.
In life rules for living are a personal strategy performed to combat situations and interactions where we feel most vulnerable. Everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers for a traditional Christmas dinner, and each of them rigidly follows those rules? You may clean to foil your anger, or utilise accents to mock or you may even have to sit and eat just to tell a lie. All of these rules govern the way Holcroft’s characters exist and interact with one another, providing a portfolio of comedic action.
Working in collaboration, Holcroft and acclaimed Theatre Director Simon Godwin craft a performance that takes a recognisable scenario, spinning it into a broad comedy around a topic we can all relate to. Projected rules and colour coded costumes invite the audience to be the master of knowledge, whilst the characters continue in their foolish jest.
Connecting the comedy with real life, Holcroft cleverly weaves a story that reflects on human nature and personal experience. CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is a talking therapy and focusses on a range of emotional, physical and psychological conditions where rules are enforced for the better. Granddaughter Emma is experiencing this form of therapy, but ironically it turns out her extended family are the ones who need to face up to their personal rules and living order.
A middle class, civilised and well to-do family evolve into a cage of animals by the end, throwing the turkey out the window and so with the rest of the christmas traditions. A feast of light comedy and entertainment, you will leave the theatre no longer wishing it could be Christmas everyday. 3/5
Review written by Megan Mattravers.
Rules for Living is currently showing until Saturday 7th October 2017 at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. For more information on the production, visit here…