Director Simon Tavener
Director Simon Tavener

‘Tis the Season to be jolly…. well, for most people!

Christmas should be a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company. But peace and goodwill don’t last long at Belinda and Neville’s home. Take a frustrated housewife, a seductive stranger, an eccentric puppeteer and a gun-mad uncle – mix in Santa, too much alcohol and some annoying mechanical toys – and you have a recipe for one truly dysfunctional Christmas.

Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy, Season’s Greetings, will be performed here at the Old Fire Station 1 – 5 December. We asked director Simon Tavener a few questions to get us in the festive mood…

What drew you to Season’s Greetings?

It is a play that I first saw in a television version back in the early 80s and then returned to a few years ago when I was looking for plays to add to my ever-growing list of plays to direct.  Ayckbourn captures to essential truths about family life over the festive period and weaves them together with some fantastic comedy writing to create a play that is entertaining from start to finish.

For me as a director, it gives me the chance to work with all sorts of new things like puppetry and some elements of farce, and, of course, a wonderful cast of experienced performers who are making the play their own.

Season's Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack.
Season’s Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack.

What have been the highs and lows of the rehearsal process so far?

Laughter.  There has been so much laughter in the rehearsal room!  The challenge for us as a team is to harness that energy and turn it into a performance that draws the audience into the world of the Bunker family and their hilariously dysfunctional Christmas.

I am confident that the OFS audiences will be laughing even more than we have during rehearsals once we get into the theatre!

Your last show here featured another excruciating family party – albeit a summer one. Have the cast been drawing on their own awkward family Christmas experiences to create the show?

We have had a wonderful time remembering our own Christmas stories – both good and bad.  We have also spent time looking at what life was like back when Ayckbourn was writing the play (it was first performed in 1980) so as to place the characters in their proper context.

Life has changed in many ways since the 1970s – but the family Christmas that goes wrong is something that will never go away.  Thankfully no-one in the cast or crew has had a festive season quite as difficult as that depicted in the play!

Season's Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack.
Season’s Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and the cast: what do you all do outside of the Oxford Theatre Guild?

When I am not in the rehearsal room, I spend my time with a lot of other theatrical projects – including helping with a local Costume store and being BBC Radio Oxford’s theatre guru!

The cast includes people who work for the NHS, Oxford University and the local press.  It is a diverse group of people from all over the county who have given up their free time for 8 weeks of rehearsal – it is that dedication for which I am incredibly grateful.  We are all amateurs in the truest sense of the word – we do it for love and I hope that shows through in the final performances.

Season's Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack
Season’s Greetings. Photo: Martha Zumack

What’s on the horizon for OTG?

We ‘re just in the process of casing our Spring 2016 production of Sense and Sensibility (directed by Cate Nunn, who helmed the recent production of Blue Stockings at the Old Fire Station), which we will be staging at the Oxford Playhouse next March.

And after that, well, we will be making a big announcement before the end of the year about the rest of the 2016 season.  It is going to be another great year for the company, I am sure. You will be able to find out all about it on our website:

Season’s Greetings: Tues 1 – Fri 4 Dec, 7.30pm. Sat 5 Dec: 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Tickets: £13, £11 from or 01865 305305.