Celebration / Party Time
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Adam Nichols
23rd-26th and 29th-31st October 2009
OVO @ Sumpter Yard, St Albans
Click here to view production photos
In fashionable London, a suave power-broker is throwing a party. His guests prattle of exclusive health-clubs, idyllic island retreats and past romantic liaisons. Meanwhile, in the streets outside, there is a violent disorder which is being savagely suppressed. Under the drawing-room elegance, private relationships echo public brutality.
Meanwhile, two sets of diners in an expensive restaurant trade stories of affairs and casual insults. But there is a good deal going on just under the tablecloths. Neither group is really in any mood for celebration and, as the wine loosens their tongues, some extremely unpleasant truths start to crawl out from the past. The only visible knives here may be the ones on the elegantly laid tables, but people are also getting laid and knifed, only this time with a smile.
In these two violent, wildly funny plays, Harold Pinter confronts us with the image of a style-conscious, narcissistic society cut off from and culpably indifferent to the intolerance and squalor of the outside world.
Celebration / Party Time marks OVO’s debut at its new home, the former Paton’s Bookshop, as it gives this much loved local literary institution a new lease of life as a community arts space.
All about the atmosphere
5th November 2009
THE atmosphere positively bristled last week as St Albans-based theatre group OVO put on two sexually-charged Pinter plays in their new theatre in Sumpter Yard.
They chose to perform the political play Party Time followed by the frothier but just as symbolic Celebration - two plays clearly linked by name rather than subject matter.
And while like most Pinter plays, a clear meaning can be hard to find, the performances and the tight direction by Adam Nichols produced an excellent evening's entertainment.
Party Time is clearly political - it centres on an exclusive party which is going ahead while something else is happening on the streets.
It demonstrates that oppression is not just rife over the masses but within its own party members as well - as the plaintive pleas by Dusty, a strong performance by Jo Emery, about the fate of her brother Jimmy demonstrates.
The aura of menace is summed up by Dusty's husband Terry, another good performance from the versatile Kieran Cummins who holds his wife in sexual thrall but treats her as no more than a possession. And it is equally there in David Berryman's Gavin and Sue Dyson's Melissa who say what has to be said in the view of their fellow partygoers.
The remainder of the roles are taken by Dee Dillistone, Debbie Oakes, David Widdowson and Peter Wood with the shock arrival of Jimmy, played by Matt Jeffs, bringing a huge dose of reality into proceedings.
Celebration is a lighter play, sometimes comic, sometime satirical and always compelling.
The role of Terry is almost reprised by Howard Salinger's Lambert, another man who believes his own legend. He and brother Matt, played by David Smith, are married to sisters Julie, Angharad Pugh-Jones and Prue, Alison Wright - the last of whom gives a particularly sinister performance.
They are celebrating Lambert and Julie's wedding anniversary while at another table banker Russell, played by Ed White, sweet talks his wife Suki, Lucy Crick.
The small matter of class emerges when the two parties come together but nowhere more so than the in the obsequious appearances by restaurant manager Richard and his helper Sonia, played by Will Franklin and Anna Franklin.
The comic element comes from Matt Jeffs, fresh from his bloodied appearance in Party Time, as the name-dropping waiter who is wasting his time trying to impress the vulgar "new money" anniversary party.
Both plays were gripping - perhaps because, with Pinter, you have to concentrate so much but also because of the calibre of the performances - and the use of the former secondhand bookshop at the back of what was Paton Books in Sumpter Yard was inspired.
It was warm, intimate and the use of just a small amount of raked seating made all the difference. Long may OVO continue to use it.
“We were impressed by the excellence of the acting which meant that I was profoundly affected by each of the plays in a way I have not been by Pinter’s work before. Congratulations.”
“I just wanted to say how very much I enjoyed the production. I thought the whole thing was excellent. I really like the idea of walking through the set to get to your seat - a very new concept indeed. I felt as though I was part of what was happening in the two plays. The standard of acting was very high indeed (as expected) and not one weak actor. The delivery of the dialogue was very good, comedy is quite hard or very hard to deliver so timing is everything. Forgot to say of course good direction makes all the difference!”
“Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed the plays last evening, I did not know either of them which is always a bonus and I thought the acting in both was superb, please pass my congratulations to both casts.”
“I got a lot out of both plays - lots of menace which was very powerful in the intimate atmosphere and thoroughly gripping.”
“Both plays had palpable menace. Savage and mordant stuff – and horribly funny at times.”
“Loved the way you got the comedy out of the plays. I love how funny Pinter is!”
“Thoroughly enjoyed the Pinter - always interesting going into such a space - gets the creative thoughts going!”
“I really enjoyed the production. It's a super venue, very intimate, and you have created a lovely ambience about the whole thing. Well done. I look forward to the next one.”
“I was very impressed how such amazing theatre could be performed in such a small space, and happy that the company now has its own home!”
“Congratulations for a most enjoyable evening – thank you!”
“A new and very excellent venue…”
“The acting was brilliant and the direction superb!”
“Congratulations to you all and all the best for your future at Sumpter Yard.”
“I love your new venue and wish OVO all the best in their new home.”
“Congratulations. A brilliant start.”
Lambert – Howard Salinger
Julie – Angharad Pugh-Jones
Matt – Dave Smith
Prue – Alison Wright
Russell - Ed White
Suki – Lucy Crick
Richard – Will Franklin
Sonia – Anna Franklin
Waiter – Matt Jeffs
Terry – Kieran Cummins
Gavin - David Berryman
Dusty – Jo Emery
Melissa - Sue Dyson
Liz - Dee Dillistone
Charlotte - Debbie Oakes
Fred - David Widdowson
Douglas - Peter Wood
Jimmy – Matt Jeffs
Stage Manager - Rob Ferguson
Lighting - Noah Gwynn
Production Assistants - Imogen de la Bere, Jeremy Harding
Properties - Angharad Pugh-Jones and members of the company
Front of House Manager - Toby Nichols
Media and Graphic Design - Adam Nichols