Play of the week: Before the Party, Almeida Theatre, London N1


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The Independent Culture

There are yelps of scandalised laughter throughout Matthew Dunster's miraculously acted revival of a 1949 gem by Rodney Ackland.

Set in Surrey amid the middle-classes in 1949, it focuses on a family who are preparing to go to a social-climbing function that the stuffy father (Alex Price) can't miss. It all goes wrong when his daughter (Katherine Parkinson, brilliant) tells them part of the reason she's a widow.

Part of the comedy flows from the way that, even when talk of murder et al silences the crew, self-interest soon re-asserts itself. Stella Gonet is beyond praise as the mother and Dunster retains control of the play's waverings of mood. Sheer spiky bliss.

020 7359 4404, to 11 May