Thurrock Drama Festival: The Birthday Party: Time for Celebration

IF THERE is one thing above all else that Bejou Productions do very well, then it is menace. The smell of fear, the atmsophere of brooding intensity is something we have come to enjoy and appreciate in the years that this reporter has had the pleasure to cover the Thurrock Drama Festival.

Their version of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party was an enjoyable descent into the minds and foibles of human nature amongst a collection of individuals living lives of quiet desperation.

The Birthday Party is about Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player in his 30s, who lives in a rundown boarding house, run by Meg and Petey Boles, in an English seaside town, “probably on the south coast, not too far from London”.Two sinister strangers, Goldberg and McCann, who arrive supposedly on his birthday and who appear to have come looking for him, turn Stanley’s apparently innocuous birthday party organized by Meg into a nightmare.

Johnathon Peters portrayal of Goldberg is a study of menace. Looking like a sociopathic Tony Hancock, he stalks the stage preying on his quarry, poor Stanley. He is ably assisted by Richard Foster playing McCann. A volatile Irishman who looks bent on something dark. Richard often gets to play sympathetic characters so it was good to see him in dark and brooding form.

Jeremy Battersby was also in fine form with the underachieving and weak Stanley. He was the pivot which the cast worked around.

An excellent play and a sure contender for a number of prizes come Saturday.

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