Touring libraries and other non-theatre spaces in South London before a run in Oxford, this sweet play from Merton-based company Attic doesn’t have a single cynical bone in its body.
With a light touch and a lot of festive spirit, writer Chris Bush captures so much complexity in her portrait of a family at Christmas – in particular, that strange and glorious Yuletide tension of adamantly maintaining tradition while the world (and relationships, tastes and everything else) moves on.
Christmas Day preparations are in full swing – even though it’s not quite Christmas Day, for reasons that become clear – and Gail is due. Her daughter, brother and mother are getting everything just how she likes it, and in the meantime telling the same stories they always tell, every year, stories that have become warped and embellished each time they’re told.
These three generations – mother Alice (Annie Wensak), brother Mike (Dyfrig Morris) and daughter Tess (Anna Crichlow) – bicker and rub each other up the wrong way, but director Jonathan Humphreys brings out a lot of love and affection in his production, even if the shifts from playfulness to earnestness could afford to be less jolting.
For such a small-scale, homespun production, turning Wimbledon library into a living room with essentially just a table and an armchair, the cast of three still pulls out some wonderful West End-esque moments. During one of the charming songs, accompanied by musical director Matt Winkworth on keys, unexpected three-part harmonies appear and suddenly we’ve got full-on razzle dazzle to add to the Christmas cheer.
It may be twee, and it may be clunky, and it may lay its schtick on a little thick, but then that’s Christmas in a nutshell, and who’d change a thing?