Home » Reviews » Off West End » Before the Party, Almeida Theatre

Before the Party, Almeida Theatre

Rodney Ackland
Directed by Matthew Dunster
★★★

Pros: Some very funny characters, and excellent performances.

Cons: The comedy was much more brilliant than the deeper character moments.

Our Verdict: Certainly worth the trip for a fun evening out.

Credit: Keith Pattison

Having recently consumed four whole seasons of the IT Crowd, I found myself wondering why Katherine Parkinson (who plays Jen Barber absolutely brilliantly) has slightly disappeared off the map, in particular in comparison with the astounding successes of her co-leads.

So I’m very pleased to have her back on my radar – she is about to appear in an episode of Love Matters on Sky Living, and at the Almeida Theatre until the 11th of May. She’s surprisingly cast here as Laura Skinner, the tragic and strong-headed daughter of a snobbish, self-obsessed middle-class family. It makes for an exciting departure from her usual typecast.

Laura reveals in the first act that her husband did not die of malaria in West Africa as she had led everyone to believe, but that she in fact killed him. Further, she is already planning on marrying again – to a man who, from his six pound a week salary to his tendency to loiter in Laura’s bedroom, seems perfectly unsuitable.

The writing is sharp and very witty, portraying a host of terrifyingly hypocritical, spineless and morally panicked characters. Faced with the revelation from Laura, they are mostly worried about the consequences for them: being gossiped about, or – god forbid – harming the father’s burgeoning political career. They dismiss Laura’s new lover offhand until it turns out he may be more far more suitable than he first appeared, at which point they become practically sycophantic.

Katherine Parkinson plays Laura excellently and she is backed up by a brilliant supporting cast, including Polly Dartford who plays the youngest daughter of the Skinner family, a bright spark with a child’s wise yet naïve take on the world.

However, the more emotionally deep moments, in which Laura shares her anguish and past traumas did not feel as resonant as they were perhaps meant to be. Although the comedy was often laugh-out-loud, I was never particularly moved by any of the characters’ predicaments. The dramatic moments all felt a little flat and unconvincing. Even the character of Laura’s sister, played by Michelle Terry, whose vindictive jealousy was for the most part fantastically portrayed, worked much better when she was to be laughed at than when she was to be pitied.

So Before the Party felt like a fun, sharp satirical look at many a human and societal flaw which is still relevant to modern society, but the comedy hit home much more successfully than the drama.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Before the Party runs at the Almeida Theatre until 11th May 2013.
Box Office: 020 7359 4404 or book online at http://www.almeida.co.uk/event/party

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