Death can consolidate old friendships and place a halo on the head of the deceased. The latter is certainly true in Alan Ayckbourn’s wryly amusing 1974 social comedy (kept firmly in period by director Jeremy Herrin) when Katherine Parkinson’s unhappy housewife, Diana, hosts an increasingly uncomfortable get-together to cheer up Colin after the drowning of the fiancée none of the other guests ever met.   

But whilst Reece Shearsmith’s beaming Colin seems surprisingly content with his memories and the lost possibility of a blissful relationship, he’s embarrassingly oblivious to the sorry state of his old friends’ marriages.

Diana’s husband (Steffan Rhodri) has shagged everything in sight – including Kara Tointon’s morose, gum-chewing Evelyn, married to infuriatingly fidgety cheapskate John (David Armand).  Old mate Gordon (unseen, overweight and tucked up in bed with yet another ailment) is constantly on the phone pestering Elizabeth Berrington’s obliging Marge.

Punctuated with the awkward silences of people who don’t really like each other forced together over tea and sandwiches, this acutely observed early play oozes disappointment and discontent, exposing their reluctance to interact with the bereaved and – as the afternoon progresses – laying bare the unsustainable myth of “happy ever after.” 

Harold Pinter, Panton Street, SW1Y 4DN
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
until 14th April
£15 – £49.50

– Louise Kingsley