Review: Caryl Churchill's The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution at the Finborough
Review: The bittersweet Third Finger, Left Hand at Trafalgar Studios 2

Review and production pics: Before the Party, Almeida Theatre

With a casting call sheet that includes Katherine Parkinson, Stella Gonet and Michelle Terry expectations were high for Before the Party at the Almeida and it didn't disappoint. Rodney Ackland's play based on a Somerset Maugham short story is a perfect marriage of middle class snobbery and general silliness and something a little more serious.

Laura (Parkinson) has returned home to England from Africa following the death of her husband eight months earlier. The 1949 country home of her parents is in the grip of post war rationing which causes all sorts of dilemmas for snobby mother Blanche (Gonet), who wants to keep up appearances and father Aubrey (Michael Thomas) who wants to go into politics and needs to avoid any sort of scandal. Not that sister Kathleen (Terry) would allow any sort of scandal, she wears a scowl and a disapproving look like a favourite item of clothing.

Into this world Laura introduces her fiancee David Marshall (Alex Price) but that is only the start of the drama she will introduce into the Skinner household on one hot, sunny day.

There is much joy to be had watching the family obsess and fret over silly things, often accompanied by some cracking lines but that would be easily dismissed if there wasn't, at the heart of the story, a real moral dilemma which gives the play soul.

Katherine Parkinson's performance plays a big part, bringing sanity, sense and depth. She has a couple of long speeches during which it felt like the audience was hanging onto her every word, I certainly was.

Throw in some gorgeous period dresses and an impressive bedroom set and you have a wonderful production of an amusing and interesting play and you can't ask for much more. Definitely a hit from the Almeida, Before the Party runs until 11 May.

Recently seen:

The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution, Finborough Theatre

Gibraltar, Arcola Theatre

Smack Family Robinson, Rose Theatre, Kingston


Have been a little lax with this of late but this is an easy one to ease me back in, Katherine Parkinson was in Cock with Mr W and a splendid job she did in that too.