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Season's Greetings
Season's Greetings

by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Julia Kemp

9th to 16th December 2017

Auditions Sunday 09 July 3pm
Director – Julia Kemp

07905 251045/

“The thing about Christmas is that people who may not actually like each other are forced into close proximity and have to pretend to be chummy and full of benevolent yuletide cheer if only for the sake of the kids. Add large quantities of alcohol and you have a reliable recipe for disaster.   Neville Bunker and his wife Belinda are the hosts, entertaining a former colleague of Neville’s and his heavily pregnant wife. Both marriages are unhappy, the husbands are complacent bores, the wives feel unloved and neglected, but almost everyone in this play is either vile or wretched. Other guests include Neville’s alcoholic sister and her hopeless GP of a husband, the latter preparing for his annual puppet show, and Belinda’s virginal unmarried sister, who has invited her new boyfriend.  The explosive cherry on the comic cake is Neville’s near-psychopathic security guard of an uncle, who wears a knife strapped to his calf, is giving all the kiddies guns for Christmas and has prepared a few nasty surprises for the grown-ups too.  What’s remarkable is how much hilarity Ayckbourn wrings out of misery and cruelty.   But laugh we do, even in the midst of the emotional carnage, as an illicit sexual tryst under the Christmas tree is interrupted by a mechanical toy, a desperately unhappy wife tries to rouse her husband from a drunken stupor and in the explosive finale, violent death suddenly enters the scenario.  As Samuel Beckett once bleakly observed, nothing is as funny as other people’s unhappiness”. (Charles Spencer – Daily Telegraph)

I lifted this in its entirety from Charles Spencer’s review of the NT’s 2010 revival of Season’s Greetings because it pretty much encapsulates the play – or at least its appeal to me – and consequently it should give potential auditionees an idea of the feel I’ll be going for.   It’s Ayckbourn at his toe-curling best and it is no fluffy sit-com.

We’ll be setting the play firmly when it was written, in 1980.  That’s 37 years ago, believe it or not, and there will not be a hairstyle, a prop, a piece of furniture, a stitch of clothing, or a sound which is not authentic to that period.   Ages cited are playing ages and can also be a bit flexible depending on the spousal/family relationship casting. 


Neville:                        Our host.   The master of the displacement activity, Neville likes to fiddle.   He likes to fiddle with mechanical objects.  He likes to go to the pub.   He doesn’t like to help around the house and he doesn’t pay much attention to his wife.  Late 30s to mid-40s.

Belinda:                       Our hostess.  Distracts herself from her stale marriage by keeping herself attractive and busying herself rather manically around the house desperately trying to organise everything and everyone.  Her instant attraction to her sister’s ‘boyfriend’ takes her by surprise.  Belinda has two young children.  Mid to late 30s.   

Eddie:                          An ex-colleague of Neville’s who tried to go out on his own and failed.   Bit lumpen and lazy.  Now hoping Neville might give him work and rather sucks up to him.   Takes full advantage of all the free booze.  Probably late 30s to mid-40s but could be older if necessary.  

Pattie:                          Pattie is harassed and tired.  She’s married to useless Eddie and she’s pregnant and she’s disappointed by both these things.  They already have 3 children and the latest one is imminent.   Actress will be wearing a large pregnancy bump.  Mid to late 30s.

Bernard:                      A dispirited, ostensibly dull, GP obsessed with rehearsing and staging the excruciating puppet show he insists on performing every Christmas to a disinterested audience of children and adults alike.  Irritating but good hearted.  Struggles to support or cope with his ‘high spirited’ (possibly alcoholic) wife.   Could be anything from early 40s to early 50s.

Phyllis:                         Neville’s sister.   She is married to Bernard.   Boredom probably drives her to drink.   She embarrasses him.  She is also embarrassed - by her husband’s lack of personality or drive - although she seems fond of him.   She mentions that she is 39 but this could be tweaked.    They have no children. 

Rachel:                        Belinda’s spinster sister.   She is in a non-sexual, non-starter of a “relationship” with Clive, a young writer she has met through a Writers Circle event.  She is attracted to him, but her lack of confidence prevents her from moving things on.    She mentions that she is 38 but this could be tweaked.

Clive:                           A verging on successful writer, invited by Rachel to spend Christmas with her family.   He is divorced, having married young.   He appears to be ‘going with the flow’ as far as Rachel is concerned but he is immediately attracted to Belinda.  The attraction is mutual.   He is younger than the others.  Late 20s or early 30s.  

 Uncle Harvey:            Uncle to Neville and Phyllis.   A borderline psychotic retired security guard who imagines intruders and attackers around every corner and wears a knife strapped to his calf.   Watches violent films and is particularly – and hilariously - scathing about Bernard’s puppet show. He is deeply suspicious of Clive.   He mentions that he is 64 but this could be tweaked.    

 Audition Pieces:


Finding meaningful individual audition pieces in a play which contains few ‘chunks’ of dialogue is a challenge.   These pieces are therefore quite communal, and serve as auditions for all the characters involved.   They also allow me the flexibility to stop and start and explore how auditionees work as an ensemble, which is absolutely crucial to the success of the play.


Eddie, Belinda and Bernard


From Eddie (Page 10) “Nev’s just been showing me his workshop…..

To Bernard (Page 13) “I’m disappointed, that’s all I can say……..


Pattie, Belinda, Harvey and Rachel


From Belinda (Page 25) “How’s the baby?”

To Rachel (Page 29) “Yes.”


Harvey, Neville and Eddie


From Harvey (Page 93) “Listen, a word

To Eddie (Page 95) “What’s this bit about engine drivers?”


Bernard, Harvey and Pattie

From Bernard (Page 99) “Are they coming?”
To Bernard (Page 101) “Well isn’t this a lovely day to be a postman…….”


Phyllis, Neville, and Clive

From Phyllis (Page 74) “My husband’s a doctor….”

To Clive (Page 75) “Er – no – no I’m not”.


Belinda and Neville

From Neville (Page 29) “According to Joan of Arc….”

To Belinda (Page 31) “Shut up.”


Rachel and Clive

From Rachel (Page 119) “Listen Clive, if you’re going to say……

To Rachel (Page 121) “`I must get on…...”


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