Kate is delighted when she finds a country retreat that ticks all the boxes. Gathering together a select group of her closest friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve, she is keen to start 2010 afresh. But successful, stressed-out thirtysomethings in search of a good time in the sticks can make for one very fearsome party… and some surprising resolutions.
Kate has rented a country house for New Year’s Eve and invited a few of her closest friends for an intimate celebration of the year’s end. But country houses can be eerie, plans will go awry and friends may be less than friendly after a few drinks and an overdose of forced bonhomie.
Robert Innes Hopkins’ set – featuring a cold, spacious hall, mounted deer heads on the wall, fireplace and sturdy furniture – is impressive, creating an atmosphere of grandeur and isolation. Arriving straight from the capital, the characters are appropriately dwarfed by their surroundings.
Michael Wynne has a fine ear for dialogue and his script is acutely observed, resulting in a detailed dissection of the habits and horrors of London life. Swept up in ambition and acquisition, these middle-class thirty-somethings are evidently deeply unhappy at heart. Jeremy Herrin directs a stellar cast, ensuring a caustic realism pervades as this perceptive comedy becomes inexorably bleaker.
Jessica Hynes is strong and grounded in the central role of disillusioned, disappointed Kate. She has a tendency to over-project – unnecessary given the good acoustics. Rachael Stirling’s vivid, vicious Rebecca commands the stage and Charlotte Riley gives a dynamic performance as the bright, brittle Laura. Joseph Millson’s Daniel has a dry charm, while iPhone-obsessed, self-involved Ben (Alastair Mackenzie) and damp-squib Carl (Rupert Penry-Jones) – an unhappily married, resting actor who works in a garden centre – complete the unprepossessing party.