The Library Theatre, Manchester, is currently offering its patrons a three course feast featuring fake antiques, car boot sale 'bargains' and broken country rules in this perceptive play by Tim Firth, writer of the musical, Our House and the hit film, Calendar Girls.
A Safari Party is a dinner party where each course is served in a different house. The problem here is that the first venue, Sparkbrook Farm, Cheshire is lacking a table and edible food! Brothers Adam and Daniel have sold the family table to a local antiques dealer who believes the tall tale that was used to sell it. When Inga, the gullible new owner of this table turns up at the Farm for the first course, the farce begins. And it doesn't end there, she has since sold the furniture to another guest!
Although this premise may sound corny, Firth has great fun sending up the heritage industry and the white lies which are used to persuade us all that any old tat is worth something as long as it comes with a 'history.' He also takes a few swipes at country life and how villagers are sceptical of classless newcomers. With such familiar targets he cannot fail. His sparkling situations had the audience on the night I went laughing out loud.
Claude Close and Sue Wallace play Lol and Esther, the new, keen-to-please folk with ease. Each time they fall for a scam, you empathise with them as you know how desperate they are to climb the social ladder. But even they have their limits as they refuse to knock their conservatory down to appease others. Lindsay Allen is also wonderful as their cynical fib-telling daughter Bridget .
As the new owners of the farm Drew Mulligan and David Partridge have great comic timing and convey the lads' vulnerability with real aplomb. Jenifer Armitage's Inga is a delight as we see beyond the mask of sharp business woman and view her desire to be accepted by the community at large.
Roger Haines’ deft direction ensures that each course is as tasty as the last and Judith Croft’s amazing set invites the audience into the contrasting houses of the three hosts.
This delectable play is so tasty that as a starter it will leave you wanting to sample some more of Firth’s work.
- Glenn Meads