THE COCKTAIL PARTY
by T S Eliot.
The Print Room at the Coronet 103 Notting Hill Gate W11 3LB To 10 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 3642 6606.
Review: Carole Woddis 18 September.
An important revival, splendid reopening of The Print Room
It’s hard to know which to applaud more: the first revival in 25 years of T S Eliot’s mysterious `psychological comedy’, The Cocktail Party or the venue. Not having visited The Print Room since its decampment to the Coronet, the venue probably takes it by a short head.
The former Victorian theatre (designed by leading architect W G R Sprague of Aldwych, Wyndhams, Novello and Noel Coward theatres fame) that became a cinema and is now reverting back to a theatre is a hauntingly beautiful space – wide proscenium, semi-circular acting space, perfect sight-lines though acoustically a challenge. And all around, remnants of the old decoration, scrubbed back to brick-work including the bar area.
As for Abbey Wright’s production, it sits wonderfully within the space, lit by David Plater to enhance daily `reality’ and the shadowy other-worlds of metaphysical/spiritual yearnings.
Eliot’s 1949 verse drama – it’s verse is held in check here, little of the Murder in the Cathedral or Family Reunion rhyming couplets – is still engrossing in its mixture of styles: a `comedy of manners’ on the one hand and searching, Catholic-influenced plunge into the unconscious life behind the social mask as the mutual antagonisms of a warring couple, Lavinia and Edward are laid bare before an unidentified guest who turns out, possibly, to be a psychiatrist-or-Greater Power.
It’s easy to read Eliot’s own feelings about his troubled relationship with his wife, Vivien (the subject of Michael Hastings’ 1984 play Tom and Viv) into all of this and by far the most engrossing part of Wright’s production comes in Lavinia and Edward’s exchanges with Hilton McRae’s `doctor/psychiatrist’ in a performance of great depth and clarity. Marcia Warren’s gossipy cocktail guest, Julia, too is a comic performance to treasure.
Unfortunately the younger members of the cast have a harder time converting Eliot’s stiff but often perceptive dialogue into something emotionally arresting. The central, `sacrificial’ role of Celia Coplestone – the lynch-pin of Eliot’s problematic message, suffering as a route to salvation – is sadly underwhelming here.
All the same and despite its shortcomings, this is a revival and a new home to celebrate.
Lavinia Chamberlayne: Helen Bradbury.
Edward Chamberlayne: Richard Dempsey.
Unidentified Guest: Hilton McRae.
Celia Coplestone: Chloe Pirrie.
Alexander MacColgie Gibbs: Christopher Ravenscroft.
Peter Quilpe: John Wark.
Julia Shuttlethwaite: Marcia Warren.
Caterer’s Man: Mark Huckett.
Nurse-Secretary: Holly Jackson Waters.
Director: Abbey Wright.
Designer: Richard Kent.
Lighting: David Plater.
Composer: Gary Yershon.
Movement: Joyce Henderson
Assistant director: Billy Coughlin
First performance of this production of The Cocktail Party at The Print Room at the Coronet, London 14 September 2015.