All about the atmosphere OVO's St Albans Pinter double bill
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 symbo
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.
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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.
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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.