A sell-out audience packed out the intimate Drama Studio on Wednesday 10th February for the first performance of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, in the company of the Headmaster, Governors, parents and students.
Led by the captivating Louie Eyres-Scott (L6) as Stanley Webber, who effortlessly provides the audience with several moments of tension and unexpected suspense, the play tells the story of a lay-about in his early 30s who has taken residence in a B&B in Margate. He is visited one day by strangers, Goldberg (played by Joshua Portway, L6) and McCann (Andrew Onwude, 5th Year). That evening, his innocent-seeming birthday party turns into a nightmare.
The play begins with a tense exchange at breakfast between husband and wife B&B owners, nonchalant Petey (Jonathon Ditmore, L6, who also co-directed the play) and eager-to-please Meg (Amelia McLintock, L6), before Stanley was unwittingly woken and joined them. Once Lulu (Francesca Chantry, L6; understudied by Milicent Owen for the Tuesday matinee) arrives, the premisce is set for the 'celebration' that follows.
Goldberg and McCann join the play during the second act, and during their first exchange it's clear to see the work that has gone into shaping both characters. Portway reels off his many lines like a natural performer, and Onwude, the youngest cast member, keeps up a very calm and convincing Southern Irish accent throughout.
The audience starts to shuffle uncomfortably as Goldberg interrogates Stanley in a method likened by the Headmaster to Samuel L Jackson's performance in "Reservoir Dogs", but the shuffling quickly turns to shock as Stanley lashes out at both uninvited guests. The scene that ensues brings the whole cast together in a dramatic altercation worthy of any West End production.
All six cast members deserve huge credit for their sterling effort to portray these complex characters, as do Directors Jonathan Ditmore and drama teacher Mrs Cleaves. Speaking after the performance, Mrs Cleaves said:
Setting the play in the intimate drama studio demands the highest level of skill from our actors; there is no room for error and nowhere to hide! The actors have been good fun to work with, they have demonstrated admirable commitment and comradery in the five-week rehearsal period. I'm so proud of them. The atmosphere last night was electrifying and the tension palpable. The audience really were on the edge of their seats!
Mrs Lynsey Cleaves, Drama Teacher
You can view more photos from the performance here