by Mike Leigh
Directied by Jodi Gilchrist
McAulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre, February 26th - March 1st, 2014
1977 BBC Play for Today
It did exactly what it said on the tin. It was indeed a painful 100 minutes of British comedy. I squirmed and cringed my way through the crass awkwardness feeling like an intruder, furtively peeking in through the net curtains at a party I wasn't invited to, but a party I desperately wanted to be part of.
The scene is a chink of 1970s suburban life played out to the soundtrack of Donna Summer's Love to Love you Baby and Jose Feliciano's Come on Baby Light my Fire with a back drop of Novamura wallpaper.
I wanted to look away, but at the same time I was compelled to see it out so I could be privy to the details of Beverly's party. Beverly, hatefully portrayed by Moe Moss, with her lid to brow shock of eye make-up, matching her maxi dress, flirted and schmoozed her way through the evening attending to her guests every need, poisoning them with her hospitality and exposing herself as the ignoramus Laurence knows she really is.
Ange, played by Kath O'Connor, is so glibly unaware that the rest of the guests, including monosyllabic husband Tony, Jim Lewis, about-to-burst-a-blood-vessel Laurence, Chris Guiness, and of course Sue, Gail Southward, are just as much irritated by her childish naivety as they are by Bev's superfluous hostess skills.
As if is is not enough that we are subjected to witnessing the consumption of pineapple and cheese on sticks, the persistent and irritating offering of cigarettes from a decorative cigarette box on the coffee table and the constant bickering between the hosts, we also have to watch, horrified, while Sue is slowly discharged of all dignity and Laurence becomes so incessantly stressed by Beverly's persona of kitchness he keels over and *dies.
If I had been a little more prepared I could have brought a cushion to hide behind during the closing scene so I could have shielded my delicate eyes from the unceremonious scrabble on the Berber rug and gone to bed thinking everyone went home and lived happily ever after...
I absolutely loved every moment of this production. I had high expectations before taking my seat but I was not disappointed in any way.
*I thought about this as a spoiler alert but frankly this play has been around since 1977 and if you don't know how it ends it's your fault.