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Before the Party

The Second World War is over and it’s time for the Skinner family to try to reclaim the pre-eminent social position they occupied before the “unpleasantness” began. And armed with invitations to a top notch garden party, on a sunny summer’s day in 1949, things are looking long as sufficient petrol can be found to ensure the Skinners arrive in style. Read more …

For aspiring politician Aubrey and his ditzy wife Blanche, everything must go smoothly – and the sudden return from Africa of their recently widowed daughter, Laura, promises to be the icing on the cake. Because even if their middle child Kathleen is somewhat bitter and twisted, and their youngest daughter Susan has a habit of overhearing precisely what she shouldn’t, Laura’s sense of duty and responsibility will readily compensate for her siblings’ deficiencies.

Except that when Laura arrives, she’s not only inappropriately dressed for a young widow in mourning, but more alarmingly, she’s accompanied. By a young man. And when Laura reveals to her family a shocking secret about her husband’s death, there a danger that the Skinners’ social ambitions may be about to go up in smoke.

Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, Before The Party is an acerbic, stylish and hilariously barbed portrait of the middle class adjusting to post-war life.

The critical consensus

The latest addition to the repertoire at the theatre in the hills is a puzzling piece which lacks a cohesive identity and fails to exploit the talents of the cast which has been excelling itself in the season to date.

***(*)(*)Joy Watters, Across the Arts

It’s as if Chekhov had been rewritten for the English middle classes in Gemma Fairlie’s meticulously turned out production.

****(*)Neil Cooper, Coffee-Table Notes, 26/07/2018

There are just enough telling asides and amusingly ironic moments in Ackland’s script to keep us engaged as we wait for the creaky story to resolve itself. The material is elevated in Fairlie’s production by some fine comic performances.

***(*)(*)Allan Radcliffe, 26/07/2018

Before The Party remains a fascinating play and a reminder to those in Brexit Britain who would like to turn the clock back that the past was a far murkier and more disturbing place than we often like to recall.

****(*)Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, 28/07/2018

Despite such [staging] weaknesses, the play’s satire on what Luis Bunuel sarcastically called “the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie” still shines through.

Mark Brown, Scottish Stage, 31/07/2018

Where and when?

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Pitlochry from Thursday July 19, 2018, until Thursday October 11, 2018. Plays in repertory. Check website for performance dates and times.. More info:

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