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What happens Before (and after) The Party?

Director’s insights from Gemma Fairlie

Ahead of the fifth production to open in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s unique, 6-show Summer repertory Season, we caught up with Associate Director, Gemma Fairlie to find out more about the little-performed play, Before The Party by Rodney Ackland (best known for Absolute Hell, recently performed at the National Theatre in London), and based on a 1926 short story by W. Somerset Maugham.

We asked Gemma, how and why did it appeal, and why is now a good time for a rare revival?

When I first read the play I couldn’t help thinking of all the English catchphrases that it brings to mind: ‘papering over the cracks”, “sweeping things under the carpet”, “skeletons in the cupboard”, “the elephant in the room”. There is something archetypally English about Rodney Ackland’s 1949 black comedy, based on Somerset Maugham’s 1926 short story. It rings of idioms and English eccentricities.

Set in a well-to-do, middle-class suburban Surrey house on a Summer’s afternoon, with a typical English middle-class family, this is a post-war world of gossip, golf clubs and garden parties. On the surface it seems to sit somewhere between Noel Coward and sitcom. But that’s the great thing about Ackland’s work: appearances can be deceiving. There is a lot hiding in the cupboard, under the carpet and behind those carefully papered cracks. Indeed, this jolly little play is in fact a very spiky, social comedy with an incredibly uncomfortable proposition at its centre. One that feels incredibly apt in our current climate. If all we care about is the ways things look, then how can we ever see the truth? Or put another way – if all you ever do is paper over the cracks – what are you going to do when the house falls down?

As the play leaves us with the final image, it is clear that it will be the children who have to pick up the pieces. In our post-Brexit, post-truth, increasingly fragile society, we seem to find ourselves echoing the same concerns. We may laugh at the Skinners and their obsession with respectability but Ackland invites us to check under our own carpets as well.”

Intrigued? Call the Box Office team on 01796 484626 to book your tickets today, or to buy online, click here.