RAUCOUS and riotously funny, this incredibly fantastic farce will have you belly laughing from start to finish, writes Paul Thomas.

Rules for Living, which had its first night at the Theatre Royal on Tuesday has food flying in the face of Christmas Day rituals as an extended family gather for the obligatory festive feast.

Frankly, this is a modern-day Abigail's Party for a modern audience.

Similar in outlook to Abigail's Party in that TV play's irreverent take on 70s stereotype pre-yuppie pseudo-snobbery, Rules for Living takes a swipe at all of us who want the perfect Christmas, but let our defence mechanisms, pretensions and lies ruin the dinner.

Take cover in the front row as the food really flies.

And, if Channel 4 doesn't pick this up for festive viewing, then TV will have missed a trick coz this aint no turkey - it's a cracker.

Rules for living are those gadgets and props of the mind and subconscious we all use to get by in everyday life.

But in this farce by Sam Holcroft the rules for each character are flashed up on digital coloured screens behind them so the audience knows exactly what they have to do before they do it. As each character's rule flashes up they begin to clash and Christmas dinner becomes a mess of rows and revelations.

It all stems from Edith's (Jane Booker) wish to make the perfect Christmas Day dinner for hubby Francis (Paul Shelley) who is coming out of hospital.

Son Matthew (Jolyon Coy) is the first to rely on his rule for living as he has to sit down to tell a lie, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) an aspiring actress and Matthew's girlfriend has to dance around the table before annoyingly overwhelming the family with her white lies.

Each member becomes increasingly disillusioned as Edith's OCD behaviour and Francis' former indiscretions as a judge come to the fore, while the marriage of son Adam (Ed Hughes) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) falls apart in spectacular fashion.

This is farce at its best with modern language and up-to-date references and insults.

The set is wonderful as the house splits to reveal the kitchen and dining room with the Las Vegas-style coloured lit-up rules flashing up on the ceiling.

This is a great night out so ditch the tellybox or set to record and get down to the 'Royal' for this early 'Crimble' present of a fun night out.

You're guaranteed to laugh your Christmas stockings off.

Rules for Living, Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday, October 14. Box Office: 01753 853888.