Review: Polite Conversation, Lauderdale House, Highgate

PUBLISHED: 08:17 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 09 September 2020

Polite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House. Picture: William Underwood

Polite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House. Picture: William Underwood

Archant

Marital squabbles at a post lockdown Hampstead barbecue fail to ignite or develop the comedy in a new play that was inevitably put together at speed

Polite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House. Picture: William UnderwoodPolite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House. Picture: William Underwood

More informal than theatres with roofs, we sit in our allocated squares like pawns on a green-brown chess board, while everyone mucks in with picnics and shared corkscrews.

On stage, glamorous Gwen and nice-but-dim Fielding have arrived for a BBQ: “Lockdown is over. It’s Super-Saturday and we are to mix and enjoy ourselves!”.

It’s hosted by friends Emma and Thomas but they are early, so grab some wine and head off for a saunter round the large garden.

Emma appears, fussing over the preparations and who’s intolerant of what. She’s joined by Thomas: man bun, large scarf, combat trousers and boots – looking like an art lecturer trying too hard to be cool.

Polite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale HousePolite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House

There’s a bit of an atmosphere between them – Emma has been told that he has “…been visiting sordid little websites” on her computer. She is livid.

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Gwen and Fielding return and are open mouthed as Thomas announces he is gay. “You bastard – you could have come out as bi!” yells Emma.

The conversation quickly gets to the nitty-gritty of his moving out and who gets Lytton (the Labrador, not the biographer) and the Red Rosewood Ottoman.

Polite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale HousePolite Conversation is an outdoor play performed on the Tea Lawn at Lauderdale House

And that’s it really. A few COVID gags and some other revelations (including one involving said Ottoman) follow but seem to go nowhere and are certainly not over-milked for their comic potential.

There is some very funny dialogue, a misunderstanding involving Gwen’s breasts, some pizza dough and Fielding, a few references to the Heath and… not much else.

Playwright Andrew Crook (perhaps ambitiously borrowing the title of Jonathan Swift’s dialogues) has drawn some vivid north London types but serially missed opportunities to explore and develop them. Scheduled to last an hour, it was, all of a sudden, over in 45 minutes.

The cast were excellent and, if given another 45 minutes and more dialogue, would be more than capable of delivering a real belter of an evening.

3/5 stars


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