Reviews: Rules for Living at the National Theatre

A reviews round-up for Sam Holcroft’s new play Rules for Living at the National Theatre.

Directed by Marianne Elliott, Sam Holcroft’s new play Rules for Living opened at the National Theatre last night (24 March 2015).

Rules for Living is an Ayckbourn style family comedy which analyses one family’s individual survival strategies and what happens when they rigidly stick to these rules for living.

The reviews so far include The Guardian, Daily Mail and The Evening Standard.


Everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and they each follow those rules, rigidly? In Sam Holcroft’s theatrically playful, dark comedy the family does just that. And when the instructions are there for all to see, audience included, there’s really no place to hide.
As long-held mechanisms for survival are laid bare, even Mum, who’s been preparing this lunch since last January, becomes embroiled.
Long-held rivalries and resentments will out. Accusations fly, relationships deconstruct, the rules take over.


The cast include Stephen Mangan, Miles Jupp, Deborah Findlay, Claudie Blakley, John, Rogan, Maggie Service, & Daisy Waterstone.

Average rating score for this production


“Personal crises plunge order into chaos in Sam Holcroft’s intelligent and superbly cast yuletide comedy directed by Marianne Elliott.”  “a hilarious Ayckbourn-style family comedy with an analysis of individual survival strategies.” “it starts out simple but descends into madness”. “The performances are also a joy.” “this is an intelligent comedy that leaves us questioning at what point the rules for living we all adopt become a form of entrapment.” ‘An exuberant production. Stephen Mangan and Miles Jupp are a joy.'

‘Like Ayckbourn in a food whizzer, with a dash of vodka and bitters. The acting is top-flight.' “The plot zooms out of control and the earlier comedy of English understatement – at which Mr Jupp excels – yields to something younger, crazier“  “plenty to watch and the acting is never less than top-flight.”

‘Scorching one-liners, and delicious performances. Packed with moments of inventive physicality.' “There's plenty to savour in Rules for Living — a glorious food fight, a few scorching one-liners, and some delicious performances.”

“An inventively staged, if rather broad, family comedy”

“Plays cannot live by rules alone, but Sam Holcroft makes a good go of trying in her suburban comedy of manners.”

Date: 25 March 2015
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