Playing that old fashioned game

The Holly and the Ivy by Wynyard Browne at Colchester Mercury until today.The clearly audible tick tock of the grandfather clock reminds us constantly throughout that life doesn't give us very much time to get our act together and that we must really try to seize the moment when it it is there.

David Henshall

The Holly and the Ivy by Wynyard Browne at Colchester Mercury until today.

The clearly audible tick tock of the grandfather clock reminds us constantly throughout that life doesn't give us very much time to get our act together and that we must really try to seize the moment when it it is there. Especially with love and loved ones.

This is a delightful, old-fashioned play in three acts with proper scenery and a whole roomful of real furniture. Not a great piece, but well acted and sprinkled with things to say about the human condition, in particular the relationships between parents and children, truth and communication.


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We are in the home of the Martin Gregory, an Irish-born Church of England vicar of a Norfolk parish. It is Christmas Eve, 1947; members of the family arrive for the festivities and before you know it, dark secrets are creeping out of the yuletide closet.

The Rev Gregory believes in knowledge, loves his books but fears that in spite of 14 years dedicated service his parishioners are a lot more influenced by the local cinema than by him. And he doesn't realise that his son Michael and his daughter Margaret don't believe in God and feel they can't talk to him about anything that matters,

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A widower, he is looked after by his other devoted daughter Jenny who has a big decision to make. She's in love with engineer David who's off to a job in South America and wants her to go with him as his wife. She may have to give him up because there's nobody else to care for the vicar from whom the affair has been hidden.

Two prying aunts, Lydia and Bridget, decide they must do something about it. But they don't know Margaret's big secret. Cousin Richard does but he's not telling. Yet, by today's standards, there's nothing very wicked involved but it's a well-constructed play that is both funny in parts and moving.

Philip Madoc is the bookish vicar who in his determination to be a good vicar has allowed himself to lose touch with what makes his children tick, with Zoie Kennedy as the edgily worried Jenny in this well-directed Middle Ground Theatre production.

There are good performances from Corrinne Wicks and Nathan Hannan as Margaret and Michael and two more from Alan Leith and Tom Butcher as Richard and David. Many of the laughs come from Christine Drummond and Paddy Glynn playing the irascible aunts.

David Henshall.

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