Reviewed by Peter Steptoe for The Croydon Advertiser
I had long ago decided that this play was old hat, had dated and that I didn’t much care for the work of its creator Mike Leigh.
I revised my opinion when I saw this production directed by Heidi Bush. She was also responsible for the 70’s set and this provided the key. Her attention to detail was remarkable.
You have to display the Lowry and Van Gough as they are referred to in the text but the furniture was spot on and she had even obtained a horizontal music centre.
The stage was at floor level in one corner with the seating in a semi-circle, which gave an intimacy, rather like watching television at home.
We were given a glimpse into the lower middles attempt to rise up in the world and getting to know their neighbours.
It has been described as the drinks party from hell and the way they knocked back the G&Ts and the Bacardis should have pole-axed a steer.
Housing estates were describes as where young people go to die and if this wasn’t one. It certainly seemed like it.
We never see Abigail who is 15 and holding a party for her peers next door.
Beverley, played by Tina Poole, is 30 and determinedly downmarket which is a drag on her Estate Agent husband, of the customer comes first variety, whose name is Lawrence (John Mills).
She cleverly makes no attempt to engage our sympathy and her husband’s puerile attempts to persuade his guests of his cultural aspirations has the right twitchiness that leads ultimately to his cardiac arrest.
Angela, the nurse you would not want to be ill with, was marvellously overplayed by Emma Rose who extracted every nuance from her part, from the elongated vowel sounds to the foolish smile from beneath the spectacles. Even her teeth could act.
Her husband, the monosyllabic (Jonathan Wales) was the perfect foil. To continually get laughs from one word answers and a look, was quite an achievement.
Sue (Amy Coates) as the divorcee with the daughter Abigail showed the necessary certainty in her indecisiveness but she did not look old enough to have a 15 year old daughter.
This was a polished production and when the heart attack occurred and our nurse stepped into action we realised that in matters of life and death: consumerism, aspirations and culture are of little moment.
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