The Sentinel - - NEWS - DIANA LANE

RULES for Liv­ing is a fast-paced, dark com­edy.

The play­wright Sam Hol­croft takes the tra­di­tional dys­func­tional-fam­ily-meets­for-christmas-din­ner premise and com­bines it with cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy, as the char­ac­ters’ in­di­vid­ual cop­ing strate­gies are shared with the au­di­ence in a strik­ing and orig­i­nal way. The theme is fur­ther ex­tended by the card game played in the sec­ond act, as the char­ac­ters show an equal lack of suc­cess in fol­low­ing its rules as they do fol­low­ing their “rules for liv­ing.” The re­sult is an ex­cel­lent and en­ter­tain­ing choice by Stoke Rep for their end of year play.

Director Alan Clarke demon­strates a fine eye for char­ac­ter and pace, and has coaxed ex­cel­lent per­for­mances from the whole cast.

The pro­duc­tion makes in­ge­nious use of the stage, and the ac­tors cope mag­nif­i­cently with the props. ■ Rules for Liv­ing con­cludes its run at Stoke Rep tonight. Phone 01782 209784 for tick­ets.

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