Corn Exchange, Dorchester

IT is Christmas and everyone is in party mood, well nearly everyone. This is family fun Alan Ayckbourn style which means lots of laughs, plenty of outrageous behaviour and a few surprises.

The Somerleigh Players bring a dedicated cast of nine to this comedy production and they all make the most of their roles in this family get together in which everyone hates everyone else but pretends to be enjoying the festive season.

Excellent timing and nicely judged performances by the actors make this a production that never misses a beat as their eccentric characters develop and get more weird by the minute.

There is Harvey, played by Paul Newman, who loves violence and is not afraid to use it which is a good excuse for his wife Rachel, Stella Hollis, to get seriously drunk and hysterical.

Then you have host Neville, Colin Clare, who would rather play with mechanical toys than talk to his guests which leaves his wife Belinda, Imogen Clarke, to get the party under way and flirt with bachelor newcomer Clive, Rod Lewis who drops his trousers under the Christmas tree.

Add to the mix a puppet maniac in the form of Jeff Little as Dr. Bernard and Sally Little as his mournful wife Phyllis, and the plot thickens.

With a pathetically inept young couple in the form of Eddie, Mike Elliott and Pattie, Roelie Newman to make up the numbers, things go from bad to worse in true Ayckbourn style as disasters strike and the comedy gets louder.

A gorgeous festive set and a colourful party atmosphere help things along and under the skilful and beautifully observed direction of Mel Hooley, this is an unmissable comedy to enjoy at any time of the year.

The play continues until Saturday December 22, you would be crackers not to be there.