EVERYONE knows there are two images of Christmas. There's the fluffy one the advertisers try to sell us, all chunky jumpers and beaming smiles.
Then there's that notorious party pooper called reality. For many, it's the season to be sniping at each other.
But I doubt anyone's Yuletide is as colourful or as memorable as this one, vividly and at times hilariously captured by the prolific playwright Alan Ayckbourn and a cast expertly led by director John Chidgey, who manages to make everyone feel invited to the at times chaotic seasonal celebrations. Let's just say a typical family gathering, a gathering that will be repeated thousands of times up and down the land in a month's time, turns out to be far from typical.
Ayckbourn writes about a world I don't live in. But thanks to Chidgey and his charges I felt totally immersed in it. This is a major comedy triumph for this theatre, with each performance characterised by impeccable comic timing.
I particularly enjoyed Bill Platt as the hopeless puppeteer and equally clueless medic Bernard, Victoria Evans as the flirty Belinda and Peter Ruddick as the only eligible guest, Clive. Gary Collins ensures you wouldn't want to meet the barking Harvey on a dark night. That said, I don't like singling out individual performances because there aren't any weak ones, with the company gelling quite brilliantly.
Make sure you don't miss this early Christmas present from the Garrick - with plenty of ho, ho, ho.
* Until November 25. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - *****