The Cocktail Party is the first play to be performed in the main auditorium of the Coronet in Notting Hill, into which the Print Room moved a year or so ago. I was amazed at what has been done with the space even in the extremely short time between my tour of this theatre and the opening of the play, which is presented on a stage built in front of the Circle. The stalls area has been turned into an atmospheric cocktail bar: it’s worth going to see the show just to experience this.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the play itself, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1949 starring Alec Guinness, and remained the most popular of TS Eliot’s plays for decades. This revival by Abbey Wright has a stylish set and a capable cast including Richard Dempsey, Helen Bradbury, Chloe Pirrie, and Hilton McRae as the Uninvited Guest. My favourite character was Julia, played by Marcia Warren, who had the funniest lines, but the traditional cocktail party setting at the start of the play soon gave way to a more surreal exploration of love, relationships and marital troubles.
I was intrigued by the spiritual tone which the play took as it approached its conclusion. It certainly left an impression on me, but the tone of the ending seemed to jar with what had gone before. Still, it was an interesting experience.