Before watching the John Lewis Christmas ad this year, why not take time to see the wonderful Rules for Living which will remind you of the reality of the festive season with the family?

Don’t be fooled by the heart-warming images of a delicious Christmas dinner surrounded by your loved ones. This play takes the cliché and dissects it like a turkey carved up at the table. It follows a family of two sons and their partners who are spending the big day with their parents in an idyllic middle-class way with lots of hugs, fizz and games promising to unfold.

Yet each character comes burdened with their own way of dealing with life – their rules for living – which slowly reveal why that long-for happiness may always elude them. How do you discover their inner idiosyncrasies when watching on stage? A fun and clever plot device which I won’t reveal shapes this domestic comedy in an entirely new and funny way.

Written by Sam Holcroft this modern take on a family with secrets to hide was first performed at the National Theatre, London and has been revived by the English Touring Theatre. With an almost Ayckbourne-like precision and sense of timing, the comedy reveals a family with painful issues to deal with beneath the comic dialogue. The cast are all equally balanced with each character likeable with their own quirks which make them infuriating and all-too realistic.

Their preparations for the Christmas dinner will be recognisable as the jobs are dished out – laying the table, peeling the veg and cracking open the wine too early. But it’s the arrival of the father played by Paul Shelley which turns the action from comedic to tragic. Past hurts are revisited and broken dreams are revealed leading to a final scene of utter comic chaos.