Love a Good Play: Rules for Living

The National Theatre, March 19, 2015

An absolute hoot, Sam Holcroft’s new play was the first night of the Young Patrons of the National Theatre getting together in 2015.

This is my first time in the new Dorfman Theatre and last night I realised how much I’d missed this little powerhouse. It’s long been my favourite theatre at the NT for its intimacy, flexibility and risk-taking productions. I’ve seen a lot of my favourite stuff here. And this was a delight. It’s well observed and brilliantly structured and oh so poignant.

It’s a glimpse into the world of a family Christmas. So far, so Alan Ayckbourn, however it takes the situation to a different level psychologically, zooming in on very specific and amusing quirks of each character that Holcroft then skilfully manipulates to comic effect. Marianne Elliott (love her) and Chloe Lamford have a super clever way of letting us into these secrets, allowing us to observe these foibles, developing them to beautiful comic effect and then allowing us to see how the individual quirks spiral the family into chaos as they clash and smash into each other.

The beauty of this being the audience knows what’s making them behave in odd ways, the characters don’t.

Full of verve and energy. It skirts close to discomfort but never crosses the line.

Stand out performances from Deborah Findlay, superb as Edith who runs her Christmas Day schedule with military precision using the 24 hour clock. And from Stephen Mangan as Adam, the eldest son, bullied into failure by an over-bearing father, struggling with his marriage and a daughter who’s 15 and depressed. He was a bloody revelation . He is sooooooooo underused on TV. More of marvellous him at the National please.

A hoot. 4.5/5

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