Casting Announced For Matthew Dunster’s Production Of Rodney Ackland’s Before The Party

Matthew Dunster will direct Rodney Ackland’s Before The Party at the Almeida Theatre from 21 March – 11 May 2013, with press night on 28 March. Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, Before The Party has designs by Anna Fleischle with lighting by Philip Gladwell and sound by Ian Dickinson. Dunster’s production of Before The Party will be the first in over 25 years.

The cast comprises Stella Gonet (Blanche), Katherine Parkinson (Laura Skinner), Alex Price (David), Michelle Terry (Kathleen Skinner), Michael Thomas (Aubrey) and June Watson (Nanny). They are joined by Polly Dartford, Anna Devlin and Emily Lane who will alternate the role of Susan Skinner.

The war is over and the Skinner family are trying to return to normal. If only the blasted Government weren’t such a nuisance about the rations and Cook could get some more of those delicious delicacies. With daughter Laura returned from Africa, widowed but not alone, they prepare for the latest social gathering. Amidst the never-ending whirl of hats and dresses and below stairs skirmishes, Laura reveals a shocking secret that threatens to ruin more than one party on the climb to social success.

Stella Gonet was last seen on stage in Top Girls at Trafalgar Studios. Amongst her extensive theatre credits are Women, Power and Politics for the Tricycle Theatre, Skylight, Racing Demon and Hamlet for the National Theatre, Memory of Water at the Vaudeville Theatre and Three Sisters, Divine Gossip and The Revenger’s Tragedy for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She won the RTS Best Actress Award for her role in the BBC drama Trip Trap. Further television appearances include Father Brown, Lewis, Mo, Foyle’s War, House of Elliott and Where The Heart Is. Her film credits include How I Live Now, Dirty Bomb and For Queen and Country.

Katherine Parkinson was last on stage in Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter Theatre. She is best known on television for playing Jen in the Channel 4 series The IT Crowd, a role for which she won the British Comedy Best Actress Award. Parkinson has previously appeared at the Almeida Theatre in The Lightning Play. Her other theatre credits include Pattie in Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings for the National Theatre, Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal at the Barbican as well as roles in Cock and The Seagull for the Royal Court and Other Hand and Flush for Soho Theatre. Her other television credits include The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff, Whites, Doc Martin, The Old Guys, The Great Outdoors, Psychoville and Sherlock. Her film credits include St Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, The Boat that Rocked, Easy Virtue and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Alex Price has most recently appeared on stage in Beautiful Thing at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Previously his theatre credits include Electra for the Gate Theatre and Bingo for Chichester Festival Theatre. His television credits include Aphrodite Fry, Father Brown, Vera, Above Suspicion, Doctor Who, Merlin, Being Human and Lewis. Amongst his film credits are Storage 24, A Passionate Woman and A Horse With No Name.

Michelle Terry can currently be seen in In the Republic of Happiness at the Royal Court. Her previous theatre credits include A Comedy of Errors, All’s Well That Ends Well and London Assurance all for the National Theatre, Love’s Labour Lost at Shakespeare’s Globe, The Man Who Had All The Luck for the Donmar Warehouse and The Winter’s Tale and Pericles with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Amongst her television credits are The Cafe, Reunited, Law and Order and Extras.

Michael Thomas previously appeared in the Almeida’s production of Waste and Festen. His other theatre credits include As You Like It and The Tempest for the Bridge Project, All’s Well That End’s Well, St Joan and Pillars of the Community for The National Theatre, King Lear andIn Praise of Love for Chichester Festival Theatre, Women Beware Women and The Roman Actor for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His television credits include Holby Blue, Trial and Retribution, Rosemary and Thyme and Wing and a Prayer.

June Watson can currently be seen on stage at the Vaudeville Theatre in Uncle Vanya. Previously she has been seen in the touring production Calendar Girls, Aristo for Chichester Festival Theatre, The Children’s Hour for The Royal Exchange Theatre, Kosher Harry for the Royal Court and Blue Hart and Our Lady of Sligo for Out of Joint. For the National Theatre her many credits include The Good Hope, Cardiff East and Billy Liar. On television her credits include The Cafe, Wallander, Hancock and Joan, William and Mary and New Tricks. Her film credits include Wreckers, Ghost Hunter and The Knowledge.

Polly Dartford’s theatre credits include Oedipus Rex at the National Theatre, Shadowmaster and A Christmas Carol for The King’s Head Theatre. Her television credits Casualty and Primeval. She will soon be seen in the film Effie.
Anna Devlin has been a member of the Young Actors Theatre for just over a year, Before the Party will be her theatrical debut. Earlier this year she took part in the 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.

Emily Lane attends the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. She has previously appeared on stage as Marta in The Sound of Music at the London Palladium and in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre playing the role Cosette.

Director, playwright and actor Matthew Dunster’s directing credits include Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Mogadishu for the Royal Exchange and Lyric Hammersmith and Love The Sinner for the National Theatre. His play Children’s Children received its World Premiere at the Almeida earlier this year directed by Jeremy Herrin. Dunster’s other writing credits include an adaptation of Saturday Night Sunday Morning for the Royal Exchange Theatre, an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Most Incredible Thing at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and You Can See The Hills also for the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Young Vic.

Playwright Rodney Ackland (1908 – 1991) wrote over 40 plays. Before The Party, based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, will be his first to be performed at the Almeida. His other plays include Improper People, Birthday and The Dark River. In 1966 Anthony Page directed Judi Dench in Ackland’s Absolute Hell. Ackland also adapted novels for the stage including Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1938) and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1946).


The Almeida Theatre is grateful to its Principal Partner Aspen whose three year sponsorship started in July 2011, building on the long-term relationship between the two companies. Aspen’s support of the Almeida Theatre ensures continued bold programming and artistic endeavour. Aspen was established in 2002 and is a leading global insurance and reinsurance company.

The Almeida Theatre is supported by Arts Council England.

Press release issued by: Premier PR


Almeida Theatre website

📷 Main photo: Matthew Dunster will direct Rodney Ackland’s Before The Party at the Almeida Theatre from 21 March – 11 May 2013, with press night on 28 March. Based on a short story by Somerset Maugham, Before The Party has designs by Anna Fleischle with lighting by Philip Gladwell and sound by Ian Dickinson. Dunster’s production of Before The Party will be the first in over 25 years.

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