Rarely has the Devonshire Park Theatre been so packed for the first night of an Eastbourne run as for this week’s production of Before the Party.  Agreed, having such stars as Tom Conti and Gwen Taylor returning played some part, but the audience were not to be disappointed with what unfolded on the stage before them.

Tom Conti and Gwen Taylor

Based on a 1920s short story by Somerset Maugham, this 1949 adaptation by Rodney Ackland is set in the post-war home counties and deals with how an upper-middle-class family handles not only the, by then, tedious constraints of ration-book Britain but an emerging scandal around the death of the husband of the second daughter that threatens to blow them apart.  It may be a ruthless dissection of the snobbery and hypocrisy of this well-heeled family, but the perfectly timed comedy rather masks the underlying seriousness of the plot and certainly kept the appreciative first-night audience on side.

There was barely a word of dissent amongst the Friends who gathered in the bar after the show to welcome the cast of this brilliantly performed play.  One word probably sums it all up: “Wow!”

l-r: Elizabeth Payne, Laoisha O'Callaghan, Tom Conti, Gwen Taylor, Eleanor Thorn

left to right: Elizabeth Payne, Laoisha O’Callaghan,
Tom Conti, Gwen Taylor, Eleanor Thorn

It was a joy to meet the cast – many of whom were no strangers to the stage of the Devonshire Park – and they all gave so freely of their time as they chatted with the many Friends who were eager to meet them.

More of the same, please, Mr Jordan!