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Family Xmas, too much booze - what could possibly go wrong?
Let's face it—we've all been there. Fractious family plus festive season plus too much Christmas cheer = yucky yuletide. Throw in a good-natured scrubber, a rule-bound matriarch, a rogue patriarch, a dipsomaniacal daughter-in-law and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry and you have Rules for Living in a nutshell.
Ella McCarthy, Caroline Lee, Ian Rooney, Jem Nicholas & Jessica Clarke
Each of the characters lives by a rule—Edith must clean to keep calm/Sheena must drink to contradict/Matthew must sit to tell a lie—that magically appears on part of the kitchen decor as the need arises. It's a clever device to help make sense of the onstage action, which ranges from the entertaining to the excruciating.
Carrie, a newcomer to the family Christmas, tries and fails to stick to the script to 'just ask questions' recommended by boyfriend Matthew. In the face of the simmering resentments and unresolved sexual tensions stirred up by the gathering of this dysfunctional clan, her occasional crass outbursts provide much-needed light relief. 'I'm so hungry I could eat the back leg of the lamb of God' goes down particularly well with the audience, if not the pious Edith.
This Australian premiere is part farce, part kitchen sink drama, part philosophical treatise on the evils of perfectionism. If you like your comedy understated and your drama subtle, Rules for Living may not be the play for you. At three hours long (including interval) this pudding was slightly over-egged for this reviewer.