For a young middle-class couple, there are various things that are required for a successful dinner party. Recipes from Jamie’s latest book, a good playlist on the iPod, a nice table arrangement and, good company. I’m sure there’s something else needed to make sure the dinner goes with a swing. Oh yes, everyone at the table to know what they are there for. The art of throwing a good dinner party is really explored in Jessica Bray’s wonderfully observed comedy Swing by Around 8 currently being shown at the Bread & Roses Theatre, Clapham.
It’s a normal evening and in their nice home, Matt (Donncha Kearney) and Katherine (Elizabeth Lloyd Raynes) are setting the table for their dinner party. As they prepare, they are very lively and excited – in fact possibly a bit more excited than one would normally expect when having a dinner party. This could be because they don’t know their guests – the dinner party has been arranged through a mutual friend – but believe that they will be an enjoyable couple with at least one shared interest. At long last, the guests in the form of Amelia (Laura McKee) and Elliot (Jonathan McGarrity) arrive and everyone can get down to having a nice civilised time. As the evening unfolds, a lot of wine is drunk – particularly by Amelia – there is not very subtle flirting going on and questions hanging in the air just waiting for someone to articulate them. Where, if anywhere, are these four people going to go this evening and will the interruption of a highly suspicious – in every way – policeman (Sam Blake) alter the conclusion of this very nice middle-class dinner party.
Everywhere I look, Swing by Around 8 is described as Ayckbourn-esque and I think that is a very accurate description of this very up-to-date comedy of middle-class morality and politeness. Writer Jessica Bray really knows her characters well and has written four highly believable people of the type that we all know and can identify without much difficulty. Director/Designer David Gasperetti makes use of the limited space available, managing – due to some highly effective lighting by designer Anton Ray – to create both a dining room and living room in a very small area. The four main actors each bring their character to life wonderfully, with both Donncha Kearney’s underscore of jealousy and Jonathan McGarrity’s wonderfully unsubtle flirting being especially worth a mention. On the ladies side Laura McKee managed to make Amelia the perfect snobby drunk – just on the right side of annoying – and Elizabeth Lloyd Raynes was perfect as the over-excited but ultimately highly practical Katherine. If truth be told the only character I had a minor issue with was the policeman who, by the end left me confused as to whether he was or he wasn’t – can’t say any more than that without hitting spoiler territory.
Ultimately Swing by Around 8 is a really enjoyable play. Extremely well written – I didn’t even realise the significance of the title until this morning – it takes what is theoretically a very simple idea but actually keeps the audience guessing as to its direction of travel and ultimate destination right up until the final word was spoken. At a running time of just about the hour, Swing by Around 8 is a wonderfully enjoyable way to get over any lingering winter blues.
Review by Terry Eastham
Matt and Katherine are stuck in a relationship rut. In a desperate attempt to rekindle the flame, they host an unconventional party. As dinner progresses, it becomes clear that not all parties understand the evening’s true agenda. Full of innuendoes, miscommunication, awkward silences, and wine (lots of wine), Swing By Around 8 is an Ayckbourn-esque British comedy that left audiences laughing from start to finish at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last summer.
Donncha Kearney as MATT
Elizabeth Lloyd Raynes as KATHERINE
Laura McKee as AMELIA
Jonathan McGarrity as ELLIOT
Sam Blake as THE POLICEMAN
Tuesday 2nd to Saturday 6th February
7.30pm – Saturday matinée at 3pm
Running Time: 60 minutes
Adult themes and language