Rules for Living

Theatre, Comedy
A family gathers around the dinner table for Christmas lunch
Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

This madcap comedy at STC shows us a family falling apart at Christmas time

Fresh from lighting up once more with the Hugo Weaving and Wayne Blair-led Wonnangatta, STC follows that rousing success with Christmas family catastrophe comedy Rules for Living.

Here at Time Out towers, we have a real soft spot for dinner parties gone horribly wrong. The failsafe theatrical trope gets a turbo-charge as soon as you factor in yuletide anxiety. So we’re pumped for the STC directorial debut of Susanna Dowling (The Kiss, The Hungry Ghost), breathing life into British playwright Sam Holcroft’s blows-by-Boxing Day bonanza.

It stars Sonia Todd (Harold in Italy, Life of Galileo) as Edith, the decidedly un-chill matriarch of an already on edge family. For her, whipping up Christmas lunch is a military operation of sorts, and when the family arrives, it may just mean war. Enter youngest son Matthew (Keegan Joyce, Vivid White) a fed-up lawyer dreaming of treading the boards, and, unfortunately, also his brother’s wife. Said wife (Amber McMahon, Accidental Death of an Anarchist) just needs a drink. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.

Mercilessly pulling at the loose ends of blood relatives and in-laws teetering on the edge, Dowling says the show is a hoot. “The whole thing is pulled together with the device of the ‘rules’, the idea that the audience can see the ‘rules’ that each of the characters are operating within brings a whole other level of theatricality to the piece. It’s like Sam Holcroft has written an Ibsen play inside an Alan Ayckbourn play inside a Brecht play, and I love that.”

Rules for Living runs until December 19 at the Sydney Opera House. You can book tickets here. Because there’s nothing that takes the stress out of arranging your own family Christmas like laughing at other people’s family Christmas.

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