Matthew Dunster’s revival of Rodney Ackland’s play, originally performed in 1949 and based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham, is a marvel. It describes the mechanics within a conservative upper class family once one of its members reveals a dark secret. Superbly cast with Katherine Parkinson as the “prodigal daughter” Laura Skinner pitted against her forbidding sister Kathleen played by Michelle Terry, her utterly hypocritical politician of father (Michael Thomas) and her naive mother (Stella Gonet). Special mention should also go to Polly Dartford as the youngest daughter Susan (alternating the role with two other actors) whose inquisitive questions of a child reveal the double-standards of the adults and Anna Fleischles great costume designs. The play manages to walk the fine line between satirical criticism and psychological insight, between humour and torment. It reminded me of recent revivals of plays by Terence Rattigan (“After the Dance”, “Cause Célébre) but “Before the Party” is much funnier. And darker. A must-see.
In the Almeida Theatre until 11 May 2013 http://www.almeida.co.uk/