Party Piece – Getting in the party spirit

Gainford Drama Club selected Party Piece to celebrate 70 years of the amateur dramatics club, and you have to admire the sheer work-rate and athleticism of the cast in this Richard Harris comedy which is riddled with chaotic situations.

At times the humour is farcical and takes some swallowing.  The story is built round a doctor and his wife staging a fancy dress house-warming party-barbecue in the back garden of their home.

The good doctor, played with enthusiasm by Glyn Casswell, ends up dressed as Ginger Rogers in a long evening gown (and brunette wig) while his wife, Roma (Maria Lowcock) is in top hat and tails as Fred Astaire, as part of the reverse roles format of the party.

Maria covers a considerable distance dashing from the garden to the front door to welcome guests, though in fact very few turn up and she certainly puts her heart and soul into the role.

But the star of this show is Veronica (Ronnie) Lowery, playing Mrs Hinson, the scheming, duplicitous widow next door with the acid wit, whose poisonous relationship with her latest long suffering daughter-in-law, Jennifer, provides some of the more realistic humour.

Never missing a chance to praise Jennifer’s predecessor, she repeatedly antagonises her wimpish son David’s furious wife before all three are invited to join the failing party next door.

Emma Simpson, as Jennifer, and Paul Richardson as David, are convincing in their back garden battles. Jennifer does not like being ignored, or being compared to David’s previous consorts, resulting in regular mutual sniping, which culminates in her launching her mother in law’s Zimmer over the fence with considerable enthusiasm.

Only two invited guests, Toby (Lawrence Chandler) and man-hunting Sandy (Alison Ivanec), actually turn up to the weird house-warming, barbecue, both making the most of their supporting roles.

Lawrence, in white suit, only after free food and booze, gives a sound performance as Toby and Alison, as sexy Sandy, after “up-for- it” men, sporting rugby kit and ready for the scrum, doesn’t need more than one drink to go into her first tackle!

For this production director Jan Richardson-Wilde has a fast-paced farce that dependent upon rapid exits and entrances, and set designer John Lowery and his team of Paul Richardson, Michelle Hope, Chris Allcock, Kate Allcock, Lawrence Chandler and Adrian Johnstone have created a brilliant set with rear gardens of two adjoining houses with flowers, sheds, a porch and patio windows incorporating all manner of associated horticultural paraphernalia.