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The Birthday Party, a serious and thought-provoking drama with some light-hearted moments by esteemed playwright Harold Pinter – who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 – is being performed this coming week and the next by Mind the Gap Productions at the TNL Atelier at 166 Ave du X Septembre (not the main TNL building).

Produced by Adrian Diffey and directed by Tinothy Lone with Louisa Graf assisting, The Birthday Party is set in a boarding house in the south-east coast of England in the mid 1960s, with the three acts set over just two days.

The stage setting is the all-functioning house interior with the set design including three doors, table, chairs, dresser and ornaments – with the 130-strong audience seated on three sites of the stage, creating a very intimate atmosphere. While the capactity may be considered small, the Atelier is by no means claustrophobic, with plenty of space around. Thanks to this closeness to the on-stage action and the excellent acoustics, one can hear every word uttered by all the cast, without exception.

The joy of this production is the interaction between the cast whose characters develop over the course of the play as the drama unfolds. Meg (Fran Potasnik) plays the landlady whose is oblivious to what is happening around her. Her breakfasts are not appreciated by her husband, laid-back Petey (Ian Graham), and tenant, easily-irritated Stanley (Tom Sheils) who presents himself as an out-of-work musician with a private income. She fusses over Stanley over whose strong character the various strand of the play build and ultimately hinge.

After dotty but vivacious neighbour Lulu (Emma Farrell) introduces herself, the remaining characters make their entrance in Act 2. Charming but calculating Goldberg (Adrian Diffey) and efficient, straight-talking and intimidating McCann (Gav Guilfoyle) arrive to stay for a couple of nights, under the pretext of holding a birthday party for Stanley. The tension mounts in the second act and tempers spill over, with Stanley’ personality being tested to the limit as Adrian Diffey’s stellar command over the delivery his character’s lines is matched only by the reaction and action of Tom Sheils and Gav Guilfoyle who plays a highly-effective foil to the probing of his colleague.

The female characters provide a welcome complimentarity and levity for the party at which the various characters get up various shenanigans. There is plenty of action on stage, even when the lights go out, with one drawn to both the visible and audible action. The caracters’ personalities evolve and transform over the course of the play as the drama plays out.

The performance of the cast, ably supported by the backstage members, is utterly superb. Luxembourg is lucky to have such a performance on its doorstep, both for the international and local communities. Adrian Diffey and Fran Potasnik are leaving Luxembourg having colectively appeared in more than 50 shows with different production companies. This production is a must-see, particularly for those who would like to say their good-byes to tem in their own back-yard, on the stage.

Tickets €20 (students €8) from tel: 470895-1 or online at Performances on 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 & 13 December @ 20:00, also 7 December @ 14:00.

Photo by Geoff THOMPSON