Enjoy some festive frolics in a Christmas cracker of a play at the very funny Season’s Greetings in Stevenage.

The Comet: The cast of Season's Greetings at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage after opening night with director Catherine Lomax and GCT patron Vicki Michelle, of 'Allo 'Allo fame.The cast of Season's Greetings at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage after opening night with director Catherine Lomax and GCT patron Vicki Michelle, of 'Allo 'Allo fame. (Image: Alan Davies)

If you are dreading spending Christmas with your family this year, be thankful you’re not staying with the Bunkers.

Directed by Catherine Lomax, Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy Season’s Greetings opened at the Gordon Craig Theatre last night (Wednesday) and runs until Saturday, November 10.

Without giving too much of the plot away – I don’t want to ruin the farcical turn of events – the play begins on Christmas Eve in the Bunker’s suburban household and finishes on the morning after Boxing Day.

Belinda Bunker and husband Neville are celebrating Christmas with family and friends, and this dysfunctional group will make you appreciate your loved ones that little bit more over the holiday period.

There’s Phyllis (Natalie Harman) getting sozzled in the kitchen while preparing a leg of lamb for dinner.

Shop owner Neville (Richard Munday) is more preoccupied fiddling with remote controlled gadgets in his shed than paying attention to his beautiful wife Belinda (Victoria Fitz-Gerald).

In other words, their marriage has gone stale after eight and a bit years but Neville doesn’t seem to notice this fact.

Then there’s the cantankerous Uncle Harvey, superbly played by Paul Lavers, with “30 years’ experience” as a security officer.

He’s watching violent films on TV and arguing with the wimpish Bernard (Adam Shorey).

Lavers is perfectly cast at the trigger happy Harvey.

Incompetent doctor Bernard, who is married to Phyllis, is also fussing about his traditional Boxing Day puppet show for the kids.

After the previous year’s unmitigated disaster of the never-ending Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, the rehearsal of his production of The Three Little Pigs is unintentionally hilarious.

Also visiting for the holidays are the lazy Eddie (Chris Aukett) and his pregnant partner Pattie (Naomi Slights), with Eddie constantly ignoring his wife while she continually nags him, unhappy at expecting another child.

Belinda’s repressed and sensitive sister Rachel (Alice Redmond) is also there, having invited a youngish author to stay with them for the festive period.

Writer Clive (Lewis Collier) arrives into this mix of bickering relatives and things soon develop between the house guest and Belinda.

Their mutual attraction ends in a midnight love scene on Christmas Day – but “not in front of the television!”.

Catherine Lomax has directed another Ayckbourn hit that will get you in the Christmas spirit, and wishing your relatives were nothing like this family.

The show has some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, a wonderful cast and the second half zips along at pace before ending rather abruptly, leaving the audience wondering what happened next.

Happy Christmas!

• Tickets for Season’s Greetings are available online at www.gordon-craig.co.uk and from the Gordon Craig box office on 01438 363200.

Evening performances are at 7.30pm, with matinees on Thursday, November 8 and Saturday, November 10 at 2.30pm.