Season’s Greetings to you.
We know it’s a long time since either of us popped our Christmas wish lists up the chimney – in Phil’s case so long that he barely remembers how difficult it often was, what with all the young urchins and their brushes obstructing his flue.
But if it’s not too late, please could you add these to our standard wish-list of satsumas, nuts, a complete DVD collection of Miss Marple for Andrew and a year’s supply of Cillit Bang for Phil:
1. An Alan Ayckbourn play that doesn’t plough his rather over-trodden furrow of exposing the disappointments and frustrations of middle class couples.
2. And one that isn’t set at Christmas. At this time of year we’re not as busy as you are Santa but the festivities drag on long enough without watching a play that that feels as if it lasts as long. But perhaps that was the point. Either way, could you get them to bring in the first act in less than one and a half hours?
3. Director Marianne Elliott’s sack is groaning with stars & talent: Catherine Tate, Mark Gatiss, Katherine Parkinson, Jenna Russell, Neil Stuke, Nicola Walker and David Troughton. Could you get the other Saint Nicholas to deliver more plays at the National Theatre with casts as impressive as this.
4. More laughs. These were very few and far between despite some excellent playing from the cast. We know it’s almost heresy to say it these days but some Ayckbourn is a little lame and sit-com-lite. This one certainly is. Why revive it apart from its seasonal relevance?
5. Fewer feeble plot devices shoe-horned in to bring Acts 1 and 2 to “hilarious” climaxes? Is it churlish to mention the remote-control Christmas tree lights and the gun?
6. Fewer three-tier sets with largely redundant upper floors in the Lyttelton to hoover up the money and fill the space.
7. More announcements warning the audience to turn off their mobile phones. Is this a new policy? It’s about time, but could they add another warning about…
8. Nose blowing. OK, both Whingers were sporting rather nasty sniffles themselves but restrained from playing their own hooters like vuvuzelas during the quieter moments of the play. And can you do something about the woman in row E who was laughing so hysterically we think her blow may have been of an altogether different variety.
8. Several decades ago we found Alan Ayckbourn plays hilarious. Now we don’t. More than anything this Christmas we would like our youth back and with it the innocent joy we found in all things theatrical. And fewer lines on our faces.
Please fix it for us. Or is that the other bloke?