Review: Greystone Theatre’s latest, Season’s Greetings, is delightfully dysfunctional

By in Culture

The Greystone Theatre’s latest production is about your average dysfunctional family during the Christmas holidays. Directed by Pamela Haig Bartley, Season’s Greetings is an engaging play that will get you into the holiday mood.

Written by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, Season’s Greetings centres on a family’s annual holiday tradition, revealing the less than pleasant side of such events. Drawing from the British  tradition of black comedy, the play sees a family fall apart, depicting a relatable and humorous example of family drama.

Season’s Greetings is a witty and poignant play about fragmented families.

Staying true to the source material, the Greystone actors take on a particularly challenging task by adopting British accents for the play — a feat that most of the actors pull off well. Specifically, James Mayo and Kaelee Dyck, who play the tepid owners of the house — Neville and Belinda, respectively — have clearly mastered their accents.

The entire cast works well together and they convincingly capture the dry humour and tone of British comedy — an accomplishment that a less competent company would struggle with.

Michael Martin performs superbly as the play’s pseudo-antagonist — Harvey, the pessimistic, violence-obsessed uncle of the family. Martin has an accurate British accent and a grasp on comedic timing that really stands out. He works flawlessly with the play’s humour style, constantly making snide remarks at the rest of his family’s expense.

Despite the dryness of British comedy, the insults that the characters constantly hurl at each other feel all too familiar for those of us who have experienced this type of family dysfunction.

Another particularly striking element of Season’s Greetings is the excellent set design. The set is made up of a dining area, a sitting room, an entryway and a stairwell — all distinguished by unique flooring. This makes the set feel quite open, as it allows the audience to see each room at all times, something the actors use to full effect.

When a scene is situated in one room, the other rooms are occupied by other characters — who might be reading or napping, among other things. It is more than just a gimmick, because this usage of space brings the audience closer to the family and the house. Instead of just focusing on one scene and one room at a time, the audience sees a more accurate portrayal of a family’s Christmas experience.

Lighting and sound are used appropriately throughout the play, and the necessary cues have little-to-no delay. Christmas music plays during set changes, keeping the audience engaged when there are slightly longer waits between scenes.

The costumes are expertly designed — depicting a down-to-earth look that suits the tone, setting and time of the play. Festive woollen sweaters and long coats and scarves give the play a late-20th-century esthetic appropriate for wet British winters.

Overall, Greystone Theatre’s Season’s Greetings is an enjoyable play to watch. It has clear direction, competent actors, and evidently, a hard-working crew. I look forward to seeing what they will do with their forthcoming productions.

Season’s Greetings is playing until Dec. 2. Visit the Greystone Theatre box office or website for more information about upcoming productions and ticket prices.

Blake Graham

Photo: David Stobbe / Supplied