- Lorna Irvine
- 7 February 2019
Classic dysfunctional dinner party hits the spot
There's always the worry that Mike Leigh's classic seventies suburban nightmare will be little more than a museum piece. Not so with director Sarah Esdaile's new adaptation, which, although a slow burner initially, hits most of the play's original beats, and adds a few more.
Jodie Prenger as the praying mantis in polyester, hostess Beverly, is the play's centre, as spiky as her cheese and pineapple on sticks. Verbally eviscerating all of her guests one by one becomes just another sashay in her unhappy but comfortably appointed home. The audience are placed as voyeurs to the destruction when Janet Bird's glass partition raises up to thrust the focus on the typically ghastly décor of the time.
Mousey hippy neighbour Sue (Rose Keegan) whose teen daughter Abigail is never seen, but her party heard bleeding through the walls, becomes a symbol of the class divide. When she wafts into the house as a guest, her piano lessons and Beaujolais expose both Beverly's ignorance, and the cracks in her marriage to pompous Little Englander estate agent Laurence (Daniel Casey).
Both Beverly and Laurence are superbly portrayed by Prenger and Casey as the couple to actively avoid on the street, but it's Calum Callaghan who most intrigues as the initially taciturn Tony, the computer operator married to sweet, childlike Angela (Vicky Binns). His volatile nature hints at darker issues, glossed over here but always burning like the cigarettes he will never quit.
It rather lacks the darkness of the original TV play, but there's still enough meat on its bones to satisfy.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 9 February, then touring.