The Supper Party – an Invitation to Savour at the Tabard
Penny Flood reviews an exciting piece of new writing
The Supper Party is a powerful and well acted play of two halves: the first a comedy and the second a tragedy. The whole is about the blurring of truth and lies and the havoc this can wreak. It’s also up to date with a story line that could have come straight out of today’s newspapers.
This is the first fully produced play by Alison Evans, who has delivered a mature and witty script that sparkles with literary references, you don’t have to recognise all of them to get the humour and emotional punches, but it helps.
The supper party of the title is at the home of the philandering playwright Sir Hector Gray (Gately Freeman) and his wife, the lovely Lady Cynthia Gray (Emma Vansittart), a writer of historical biographies whose fragile beauty masks a backbone of steel. The guests are a mixed bunch from the worlds being satirised.
Jane (Tessa Wood), an ex-lover of Hector, and a fading journalist who uses her life as the sources of her latest column. Young actress Eva (Liis Makk) who is being lured into Hector’s web by being cast in the role of Jane in the play he wrote about their affair. The pathetic, self deluding Sir Rudolph (Seamus Newham) a late arrival straight from playing Mother Goose in pantomime at Tolworth. Irish writer Enid (Maxine Howard) who turns up with Patrick (Frederick Szkoda), a young man she likes to call a reborn young Lord Byron. And academic historian Andrew (Rufus Graham) who is in a constant battle with Lady Cynthia about historical ‘truth’.
Evans says the characters are an amalgam of many people, and part of the fun is recognising some of her real-life models.
The first half is very witty, and pretentiousness is the order of the day, even down to the food. The amuse bouche is Canada goose tongue bruschetta because, as Cynthia trills to her guests, it’s the only part of the bird that’s edible. As the drinks flow and hidden truths bubble to the surface, early bonhomie fades and they bitch and snipe each other. It would have been easy for this to slip into cheap farce but the script is too intelligent and the direction by James Beedham and Eleanor Teasdale is too tight to let that happen.
The sharp change of pace in the second half pivots around Jane’s son Ludo (Chris Walters), who arrives in the middle of a game of charades. The way his life has been blighted by the adults who should have protected him is the disturbing heart of the play as it becomes clear how far they’re prepared to go to maintain the falseness their lives.
The play’s not without its faults. The first half drifts a bit and the passing references to Ludo could have been bolstered to add a frission of mystery and tension to avoid this. However, it’s an exciting piece of new writing and we are lucky to have this opportunity to see an emerging theatrical talent.
The Supper Party is at the Tabard until 17th November.
November 9, 2012