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The Supper Party, Tabard Theatre

Alison Evans
Directed by James Beedham and Eleanor Teasdale

Pros: A witty script with interesting, quotable thoughts on life, art and relationships. Some very good acting too.

Cons: The story lags in places and some of the acting is less than perfect. Nothing too bad though.

Our Verdict: This is a show which offers plenty of laughs with a number of profound observations to add real depth to a story which is essentially about rubbish parties and vacuous people. A definite thumbs up from us.

Courtesy of the Tabard Theatre

The Tabard Theatre is a picturesque venue in south-west London which also doubles as one of London’s most famous historic pubs. Since 1985, the Tabard has been staging lots of ground-breaking new writing with a healthy sprinkling of everything from classical theatre to contemporary adaptations. This is also a favourite venue for TV comedians who wish to try new material before embarking on high-profile tours.

Since becoming the company in residence in 2005, Pulling Focus have produced a string of hugely successful productions at the Tabard, with some shows even transferring to the West End. It is rare to find a company who operate so incredibly well out of a small studio theatre such as this one with no central funding to speak of.

On entering the auditorium I felt as if I was walking into a stately home, so wonderful was the set design – a living room filled with paintings, books and beautiful antique furniture. The seating area reminded me of traditional old-school theatres with its warm, inviting atmosphere and lush velvet seating.

I recently read an article which featured a quote from Derren Brown stating that anyone who claims to love parties is probably lying. The Supper Party is a story about these strange social events which most of us claim to enjoy. The first act allows us to meet each character or party-goer as they enter a doomed evening with varying levels of enthusiasm/dread. Hector Grey is an aging playwright and actor who has a shady past and an eye for the much younger ladies. Gately Freeman plays this character at just the right level so that we find his delusional antics pitiful without losing any of his likability.

His long-suffering wife is expertly played by Emma Vansittart who exudes class and intelligence every step of the way. They are joined by a group of snobbish, arty types who kick off the evening with a game of one-upmanship disguised as polite conversation. Jane (Tessa Wood) stands out as an (arguably) morally-corrupt gossip columnist and it is through this character that playwright Alison Evans invites us to rethink our understanding of good and bad journalism. Another notable character was Sir Rudolph Treglown played by Seamus Newham. Treglown is an ageing Queen of the theatre and a famous pantomime dame. As I watched his performance I felt it could have been all too easy to turn this character into a stereotype but Newham manages to maintain a delicate balance of suitable flamboyance with genuine depth and human frailty.

Although the play is well-written and well-executed, the story did lag a couple of times and I found it hard to stay focused on quite a few occasions. Some of the action needed tightening up particularly with some of the actors drifting from one place to the next. However, this should not deter you from going to see this production as Alison Evans is a playwright who really has a lot to say and much of her dialogue exudes a certain maturity and sophistication. It is intriguing to watch these characters enter the stage as caricatures that slowly unravel into deeply flawed and complex human beings. Evans is certainly one to watch.

As someone who has never been to the Tabard before, I am mighty impressed with everything it has to offer, from the physical beauty of the venue itself to the warm welcome from their lovely staff. I am now very much looking forward to becoming a Tabard regular and can’t wait for more productions from such a unique and exciting company.

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

The Supper Party runs at the Tabard Theatre until 17th November 2012.
Box Office: 0208 995 6035 or book online at http://tabardtheatre.co.uk/

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