SIXTY years after it made its debut as a stunning piece of contemporary theatre, Wynyard Browne’s powerful domestic drama The Holly and the Ivy still buzzes with home truths.

It is now of course a period piece – set in a rural Norfolk vicarage over Christmas 1947, in the days when snow was an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

But though both play and cast are beautifully dressed in Middle Ground Theatre Company’s marvellous production, this is a story that transcends nostalgia. It is about family tensions, hidden secrets and long-held regrets.

Sensitively directed by Michael Lunney, it focuses on elderly vicar, the Reverend Gregory, superbly played by Philip Madoc.

A pillar of the community for more than 40 years, he is becoming increasingly frail but, cared for by his daughter Jenny (Zoie Kennedy), has no wish to retire. Together they prepare for the family’s annual festive visit. He quietly wonders what his life amounts to. While Jenny, driven by a sense of duty, decides to sacrifice her own chance of happiness to maintain the status quo.

As the family arrive it is clear all is not well. Brother Mick (Nathan Hannan) is agitated and confused while sister Margaret (Corinne Wicks) is drinking way too much. Two splendidly indiscreet ageing aunts (Christine Drummond and Paddy Glynn) unwittingly act as the catalyst that soon has skeletons tumbling from cupboards as the family finally get down to some straight talking.

The Holly and The Ivy plays Lighthouse in Poole until Saturday.

Jeremy Miles