Christmas comes early to the 3 Bugs Fringe Theatre’s production of Rules for Living, directed by William Jackson. Sam Holcroft’s play is a farcical dinner party, bound by the ‘rules for living’ which are set for each character. Matthew, for example, must sit to tell a lie.
With a strong ensemble cast, it explored the routines of our lives, and the very real effect they had on the people around us. Mia Jacobs was deliberately understated as Sheena, having a remarkably controlled and measured performance which helped to accentuate the more overtly disruptive behaviour of the extraordinary Elliott McDowell, who was fantastic as her husband, Adam.
Iain Alexander, making his debut with the company, held a strong control of the pacing of the piece, and acquired a deftness in the way he spoke to his mother, the seemingly never resting Tilds Blythe.
But the real tour de force performance here was Nell Baker’s Carrie. Her energetic and playful portrayal of the wise cracking, but failing, actress girlfriend of Alexander’s character, Matthew, left her as the audience favourite from the off. Coupled with the devastating contrast in her character as she learnt of his true affections for another woman, her confident command of a whole spectrum of emotions was extraordinary, and showed her true range of acting capabilities.
A cluttered living room home was the action of the play, which culminated with the destructing of the idealic Christmas dinner the family so wished to have.
The production was at its best when it moved away from the technical elements – which were not as slick as they could be at times. Furthermore, Jackson’s reinterpretation of the ‘rule makers’ seemed out of place amongst the family, and were often overshadowed for their diminutive role as spectators of the action by the superb portrayals on stage.
Nevertheless, this providing a reasonably accurate depiction of the chaos of Christmas for many families, and the potential elements which can cause such problems. This performance drives headlong into these ideas and smashes them into Rules for Living: a very impressive show indeed.