THEATRE – Before The Party – Independent Theatre – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

After the all-male casting of IT’s Ross last November, it is perhaps not surprising director Rob Croser has sought to re-establish gender balance in his productions with Rodney Ackland’s take on  this Somerset Maugham short story.

In post WWII Surrey, England, Aubrey Skinner (David Roach) is a few days away from being confirmed as the Conservative Party candidate for the district. What can go wrong as he and his family wait to head off to mix it with the important people at a garden party. Well, for a start his wife, Blanche (Bronwyn Ruciak) is a loose cannon, his middle daughter Kathleen (Laura Antoniazzi) has a loose tongue and there is a Nazi loose in his kitchen. Then, there is his oldest daughter Laura (Madeleine Herd).

You see, Laura refuses to sustain her public displays of mourning (for her dead husband) by preparing to wear pink to the party and she has a boyfriend, David (Will Cox) who is a travelling salesman with links to the black market and seemingly of ‘no fixed abode’.

It’s all a delightful romps as social conventions and constrictions of another era get challenged by the new world after the apocalypse of the years before. Madeleine Herd is the stand out with her committed air of detachment from the introspections of the rest of her family – of the same blood but from another place. Antoniazzi successfully sustains the portrayal of her character’s hideous inadequacies while Ruciak plays hers in an almost unhinged frenzy; perhaps a tad over the top.

Almost typecast in IT productions, David Roach nicely plays another exasperated and exhausted patriarch while Cox breezes in and out as his character requires with his usual talents on full show. Fortunately, some sanity is provided to the household by Nanny (Myra Waddell) and youngest daughter Susan, the excellent Jenna Bezuidenhout.

While full of the warmly received IT gloss for which Rob Croser and David Roach have long been renowned, Before The Party is not exactly their most challenging production of recent years with its messages less poignant than others. But a good night’s entertainment is assured.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

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