The Safari Party

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The Safari Party

The Safari Party














Theatre and Tim Firth



The Safari Party
Written by Tim Firth
Directed by Alan Ayckbourn
Produced by Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
Transferred to Hampstead Theatre, London the following year.


The Play

First presented at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the round a
The programme cover from the original production with
Daniel - Daniel Casey
Adam - Daniel Crowder
Esther - Christine Moore
Lol - John Branwell
Bridget - Amanda Abbington
Inga - Helen Ryan
At the Hampstead Theatre March 2003 with the same actors.

The Story

Three households in Cheshire have agreed to hold a "safari party" - a dinner party, each course of which is served in a different house. The hors d'oeuvres are served by Daniel and Adam, young brothers whose abusive father was recently shot dead, the entrees by Lol and Esther, upwardly-mobile and vulgar, and deserts by Inga, a seemingly benign antiques dealer. The three housleholds are linked not just socially, however: there's the whole question of the table ... The brothers sold it to Inga, inventing a slightly colourful history for it to increase its value, and she then re-sold it at a staggering profit - with even more elaborate storytelling - to Lol and Esther. As the evening progresses, the many layers of truth about the table, some shocking, are revealed and violence flares.


The Cast

In 2006, The Producing Partnership production of SAFARI PARTY began a UK tour.
Lol - Christopher Timothy
Esther - Sara Crowe
Adam - Jack Ryder
Inga - Illona Linthwaite
Daniel - David Brown
Bridget - Helen Noble
The Safari Party



I used to do a radio show with some mates in which I was characterised as the Northern one because the other three lived in London and I in Warrington. After a few episodes we received a complaint from a woman saying please could the BBC point out that Warrington was in 'North Cheshire', not 'The North'.

Nothing has more succinctly summed-up for me the unique mentality that lurks in small enclaves of this otherwise beautiful, lush county. Nestling snugly in the sac of the Wirral peninsula, Cheshire is known locally as 'the Surrey of the North'. In fact it's richer, the richest county in the UK according to some polls, but that's hardly surprising seeing as Manchester United all live there and it hasn't any urban development to speak of. The nearest Cheshire gets to a city is Chester, a Roman fortress originally called 'Deva' which was Latin for 'overpriced nick-nack'. Chester is now a party town where the young women of Cheshire go to meet the young men of Cheshire, only to find they've already been beaten up outside Asda by the young men of Birkenhead.

In terms of heraldry we don't share the same proud lineage as our local counterparts. Cheshire never got involved in the 'Wars Of The Roses', probably because the rose of Cheshire was in fact silk and the 'House of Chester' cost twenty four ninety nine for a family pass where you got shown around by some haughty old trout who thought she owned it. Records show that in the middle ages the house of Chester was the first to abandon the fuedal hog roast for the gingham self service cafeteria offering a selection of 'Rural Flapjacks' made on an industrial estate in Dudley.

Nor is any memorable mention made among the 'Norfolks' and 'Wessexes' and 'Gloucesters' of Shakespeare's history plays, of a 'Cheshire'. This is probably because any nobleman of Cheshire would undoubtably have looked like Neil Hamilton and slacked his way around court playing real tennis and getting jostled in the armour-putting-on room. In fact it's fair to say that if the Cheshire mentality had a face, it would be Neil Hamilton.

We have greater alumni than Neil and Christine Hamilton, of course. Cheshire can boast Judith and Alan Killshaw of internet baby fame and also Rupert Holmes who wrote 'The Pina Colada Song', although analysing the lyrics for this hit, which focuses on 'drinking pina coladas in the dunes of the cape' it is unlikely Rupert was drawing widely on his childhood in Winsford.

It is worth pointing out here that Cheshire is a famous fox hunting county, a boast of which we are all very proud. Time after time we are allowed the privilege of being snottily ordered to wait in our cars as a group of overweight soliciters from Wilmslow clap across the road on fairground donkeys. How proud they look, these warriors, valiantly squinting and talking of Tuscany. Cheshire foxes are now statistically the least-caught in Britain, having genetically modified their body odour to resemble Paco Rabane, thus rendering themselves indistinguishable from their pursuers.

In fact Cheshire's profoundly beautiful, lush countryside is the cause of the problem, Cheshire it seems was geologically formed to give people who made money in Manchester somewhere nicer to live. Apart from a couple of towns like Northwich and Nantwich, both of which rather ironically produce grit, it had no major industry of any kind until the late seventies when Tory vote-mongering adjusted the boundaries and hoiked Warrington, Runcorn and Widnes in by the back of their blue collars. And my, what a battle we had then over post codes. For years people in Warrington pointedly addressed themselves as 'Warrington, Lancs' and 'true' Cestrians refused to acknowledge the newophytes in the same way one would try to ignore the presence of an unwanted relative on the Christmas Day sofa.

No, Cheshire sits most comforatably in the cobbled drives of Prestbury and the fake-cobbled drives of Cheadle. Cheshire lunches most happily at one with a glass of Sancerre and foccacia bread. Cheshire notices labels. Cheshire chooses its schools. Cheshire wants to be Surrey so much it has to out-Surrey Surrey. be Surrey with ornamnets. Surrey with a fringe on top. Cheshire is Cheshire for ever amen. At leats, that's what Cheshire mentality thinks. And why it thinks Cheshire isn't 'the North'.

Having said all that, do visit. You might see Ryan Giggs and we've got the Anderton boat lift going.

Tim Firth - in the original SJT programme

The Reviews

‘a cracking comedy - cunningly constructed, thematically rich, and above all blissfully funny’

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph

‘delectable… Firth’s sparkling situations had the audience laughing out loud’


Bless the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Whenever it's not providing a choice morsel from Alan Ayckbourn's burgeoning larder of plays, it often substitutes something that could just as easily have been concocted by him.

Tim Firth's The Safari Party serves up that kind of natty conceit that Scarborough's most tirelessly inventive resident must wish he'd thought of himself: a three-act comedy structured around a roving diiner party that moves from house to house, the guests taking it in turn to dish up a course.

Firth knows fair game when he sees it. At the sane time, he has n his sights the pretensions of the monied inhabitants of Cheshire. "If the Cheshire mentality had a face it would be Neil Hamilton," he scoffs in his programme notes, adding: "Cheshire wants to Surrey so much it has out-Surrey Surrey."

Chief objects of ridicule are Esther and Lol, an arriviste working-class couple who have made a pile and moved closer to nature. Intoxicated by the idea that they're now surrounded by "a better class", they swallow whatever tosh they're told about the county's customs. For starters that means gobbling down the nasty nibbles prepared by penniless farming lads Dan and Adam on the grounds that they're a tasty local delicacy.

Things turn sour when the action switches to the couple's house for the main course and they learn that the hole-ridden table they splashed out on for its "historic" past is an unwanted heirloom the boys flogged to wily antiques dealer Inga. The latter has baked a cake and, naturally enough, gets her just desserts.

Firth has little reason to fear the ire of Cheshire folk. For his play, generically reminiscent of a Seventies sitcom, is as light as a soufflé, and could quite easily fit into a roving evening of mindless pleasure-seeking.

As director, Ayckbourn stirs this entertaining froth with brisk panache and there's not a single bore in his party pack. Best value is John Bramwell's hoarsely shouting Lol, a saucy seaside postcard caricature of a puffed-up, beer-bellied xenophobe. But Christin Moore delights, too, as his snobby gallumphing wife, dressed in Barbie doll pink Christine Hamilton.

You can read more reviews of THE SAFARI PARTY on the 'REVIEWS' page.



aa The play is available in print

SAMUEL FRENCH: ISBN 0-573-01981-9

arrowScripts, CDs and DVDs of Tim Firth's work are available.

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