The bond between mother and son is a beautiful thing. The bond between mother and daughter-in-law can be a very different story. At the centre of Party Piece, Richard Harris’s hilarious comedy, lies a tale of a disappointing son, his unfortunate choice of wife, and a perfectly cantankerous mother who “won’t go anywhere she isn’t wanted”. There is also a fancy dress party gone very wrong, a hideous yellow dress, and a temperamental barbecue with a mind of its own.
The story is set in the garden of 2 adjoining houses. One belongs to the elderly Mrs Hinson (Sheila Grew) who is suffering a rare visit from her son, David (Christopher Waters). Unfortunately for Mrs Hinson, he has brought his second wife with him, as the pair aim to persuade her to sell her house, ostensibly to move closer to David, but in reality to cash in on the street’s booming property prices. The other house belongs to Roma Smethurst (Jill Simkin) and her obsessive husband Michael (Rod Bisset). They are about to throw a fancy dress housewarming party, and are frantically preparing for their many guests. Unfortunately they receive a long string of cancellations and end up with 5 guests, three of whom are from next door. What follows was the complete descending of the party into chaos, and the complete deterioration of David’s relationship with both the women in his life, all of which had the audience in stitches.
The cast gave very strong performances throughout and really brought what was actually quite a stagnant script to life. Sheila Grew’s performance was particularly convincing as the cranky elderly lady desperate for attention whilst “staying quietly out of the way”. Her character was instantly relatable and her mannerisms almost too perfectly captured the elderly relative we all have or know. Liz Webster as Jennifer, whose hatred of her mother in law was almost tangible was also on fine form, even if throwing her zimmer frame over into next door’s garden was a bit of a low blow.
On the other side of the fence, Rod Bisset was hilarious all night, and watching him grow more and more hysterical as the party wore on was thoroughly entertaining. Add an inebriated Scotsman (and a highly flirtatious welsh woman) into the mix and it made for a riotous evening all round.
Party Piece runs from 9 – 19 March at the Grange Playhouse, Walsall.
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