Written by Tim Firth
Directed by Alan Ayckbourn
Produced by Stephen Joseph
Transferred to Hampstead Theatre,
London the following year.
- First presented at the Stephen
Joseph Theatre in the round
- 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.
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
- In 2006, The Producing
Partnership production of SAFARI PARTY began a
- Lol - Christopher Timothy
- Esther - Sara Crowe
- Adam - Jack Ryder
- Inga - Illona Linthwaite
- Daniel - David Brown
- Bridget - Helen Noble
- THE CHESHIRE MENTALITY
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
Tim Firth -
in the original SJT programme
cracking comedy - cunningly constructed, thematically rich, and
above all blissfully funny
Firths sparkling situations had the audience laughing out
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
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
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
You can read more reviews of THE SAFARI PARTY on the 'REVIEWS' page.
play is available in print
- SAMUEL FRENCH: ISBN 0-573-01981-9
Scripts, CDs and DVDs of Tim Firth's work are available.