Review: The Holly And The Ivy @ New Theatre
Early December for me is trying to see if I can bare to cope with the hype, then massive lull that is this holiday season.
So, I didn’t expect much of this play by Wynyard Browne, since it looked like very tame viewing (anything was better than last week's Chin-Chin).
It proved to be pleasingly darker then expected and had a family at its core that was easily relatable and somewhat surprising.
It’s Christmas Eve 1947. The Reverend Martin Gregory is assembling his family together in his parish for Christmas. Secrets have been left on simmer and the family dynamic is tested along with everyone’s views on faith.
What can be taken away from this play is the very sad fact that a man who devoted himself to his profession (and therefore his religious views as well), realises that he has wasted his life doing something he didn’t really want to do. We all want to think that this won’t happen to us. But how do we know what we really want? His children were his life, yet his work as a priest took away so much of him being a father, he just couldn’t see that fact. How heartbreakingâ€¦
The cast here were grounded and above average for this play. You hardly need thespians to perform a play like this. A few Scottish and Irish accents could have been a bit more polished. The two aunts played by Hildegard Neil and Sally Sanders are like watching Sheila Hancock and an Irish Dame Maggie Smith in full effect. The latter was a comic relief, which never reached further than pastiche and cantankerousness. The former was a calm and understanding character that you would certainly want in your own family.
A great deal has changed since the 1940s and then again, not a lot has. We see the generations deal with the aftermath of an atrocious war and also come to terms with their own morality. There's even a joke by Mick, the son, was about the atomic bomb, two years after the real thing killed thousands in Japan (too soon for the time?). Families are never easy and this play respects and confronts that.
This traditional and fairly decent play by Browne is just what I needed this time of year. Oh course, I always yield for Xmas and give into the gooey nougat centre that is Christmas Day. If Christmas is about family, what are you to do if you can’t get it right with them? Food for thought over the turkey and trimmings.
A pleasant, honest and thoughtful stage play.