Other Productions - The Birthday Party  
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Steven Pacey

- reviewed by Louise Badsey

by Harold Pinter - Starring Steven Pacey as Stanley
(also starring Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Nigel Terry, Barry Jackson and Lisa Dulson)
17th April 1999 - Theatre Royal, Bath
 

Being a Steven Pacey fan I was quite excited when my USA friend e-mailed me with details of Steven's new play "The Birthday Party". A few hours later I was phoning around a few friends and booking up tickets to see him down in Bath.

We managed to get front row, middle tickets and so we could almost touch him - argghhh!! Well, OK, the actors didn't come that close to the edge of the stage, although I must say at one point they started to throw chairs around in the one fight scene and it was a bit worrying when all this furniture came towards us!

So what was it about then? Erm, well let's see - Steven played a character called Stanley who is lodging at a seaside boarding house which is owned by 'Sybil Fawlty' (well, OK Prunella Scales) and her husband. The set was based in the dining room - just four chairs and a table in the middle of the stage, a door at the back of the room leading to a staircase up to the bedrooms which you could see through the back wall. To the right you could see the front door and to the left, the back door. Also on the left, toward the back of the stage was the serving hatch into the kitchen. It started off with the Meg and Petey (the proprietors) having breakfast. Prunella played an excellent part as Meg - who was a bit mad, if not just a silly old woman - she constantly questioned her husband about lots of trivial things. The husband patiently answered all her questions. This was quite amusing and there was lots of laughter from the audience as she was really going a bit over the top!

Then enter Stanley! Steven Pacey dressed in grey trousers, blue and white stripey shirt, extremely dirty back and front (brown stains all over it) (buttoned to the top, so not showing off much chest, unfortunately!) - and a pair of blue cord slippers - no socks! His hair was extremely greasy/dirty and going grey! He also has the start of a bald spot on the top of his head, which unfortunately was not a wig! No nice, thick curly wurly hair I'm afraid! It was the part he was playing though - he was meant to look pretty awful and he did! He was meant to look unshaven, but you could see it was just make-up to look as if he had stubble - rather well done - but obvious to those sitting close enough that it was fake!

I don't think any of us totally understood what was going on in the story. We learned that he used to play the piano and played professionally once - however, he was basically in a bad way - depressed, not caring about how he looked or anything. The landlady, Meg treated him as a son which he found most annoying and he made her well aware of this by shouting at her, trying to scare her and generally being quite nasty! It was kind of nice to see him play a really bad guy! (I always kind of liked it when Tarrant got all nasty and arrogant!) Well, it was his birthday - or at least Meg thought so and she bought him a present. He said it wasn't his birthday, but as he could not convince Meg otherwise, he opened his present just to humour her. He was given a small child's drum! She said she'd bought him the drum because he didn't have his piano anymore. (She was obviously quite mad!) Anyway, it was quite amusing to watch Steven walk around the stage with this drum around his neck pretending to be a toy soldier drumming away on his drum loudly!

Then it all got a bit strange. The husband had met these two guys on the beach (he worked as a deckchair attendant) - they were looking for somewhere to stay, so he invited them to stay at their boarding house. So, these two gentlemen dressed in suits entered the scene - one was obviously a boss type character and the other his servant/butler type character. This guy was very good actually, quite amusing. He walked about with very precise movements and lots of amusing facial expressions and was either very quiet or very violent! They met up with Meg who mentioned it was Stanley's birthday and so they decided to throw him a party. You got the idea that these two chaps were here for a purpose - something to do with Stanley - but you were not quite sure why. At first I thought they may not have been real, but some type of guardian angels sent to sort Stanley out and get him our of his depression. Hmm, I couldn't have been more wrong as it turned out that they threatened him and brought him down further into himself, eventually leaving him a drooling idiot.

Not the sort of play you go to see for the lust factor! I mean, you should have seen what they did to the poor guy's hair in the last scene - he had a centre parting and they combed his hair down flat - he looked terrible and all the drooling didn't help the matter! However, it did prove what a great actor Steven is - you could see him getting more and more psycho as the play went on. He really did look like he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown - he was shaking violently close to tears at times! Wow! Very convincing also!

A mixture of humour/violence/and strangeness in which Steven gave a very convincing performance of a guy on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

After the show had ended, and the actors came back on to take a bow - Steven was there with his large grin and you got to see the young cheeky faced Stevie again which was very nice!

 

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