When it comes to understanding female feelings Alan Ayckbourn is a perceptive writer. Such understanding is amply demonstrated in Life And Beth.

Having lost her husband, Beth is facing her first Christmas alone – that is apart from her alcoholic sister-in-law, her ghastly son trying to fill the shoes of his equally obnoxious father, his terrified girlfriend and the visiting vicar.

Each mistakenly believes that Beth’s marriage was idyllic and that she is heartbroken at her loss. Quite the contrary, having endured years of being treated as the helpless little woman, she is delighted to be shot of him.

Typically bittersweet Ayckbourn – we laugh at every character’s flaws but at the same time feel guilty for doing so.

The production is a fusion of strong direction and quality acting. Hazel Starns’ Beth is underplayed to perfection, quietly suffering the well-meaning actions and platitudes. David Peaty and Tom Harris fully capture the repulsiveness of father and son. Dan Dryer’s vicar is beautifully understated and although Sophie Lane never speaks, she ably expresses her thoughts visually.

Zoe Edden almost steals the show as alcoholic Connie. Her body language and facial expressions speak volumes in a performance full of subtle nuances.