The Holly and The Ivy, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
You can always rely on Middle Ground Theatre Company to bring a good production to Eastbourne and The Holly and The Ivy is one of their best. Although it is set on Christmas Eve in 1947 it is in no way dated although director Michael Lunney has captured the period down to the last detail, even having the Christmas presents wrapped in newspaper.
Wynyard Browne’s script is so well written that although it is quite a wordy play you just want to listen and this production is so beautifully acted you find yourself being drawn into this dysfunctional family’s troubles.
Stuart McGugan is superb casting as the aged vicar who should retire but has no intention of doing so while his long-suffering daughter Jenny continues to look after him sacrificing her own happiness. Charlotte Hunter portrays her despair that you feel for her from the beginning. Corrinne Wicks is also very good as her selfish alcoholic elder sister who visibly changes after she at last is able to unburden herself to her father.
All the cast are good in their roles but it is a joy to see International film and stage actress Hildegard Neil is still as good as ever as elderly Aunt Lydia while Sally Sanders is a perfect foil for her as the lonely spinster Aunt Bridget.
This is a very moving play with light and shade, Dean Smith is very funny when he rolls in drunk on Christmas Eve shocking the entire household.
The beautiful set with the church visible behind is very realistic and this is one of those plays where you sit back and enjoy a great dramatic experience.
By Amanda Wilkins