Whine and cheese

THE PARTY I Sally Pot­ter serves up canapés, cock­tails and caus­tic com­edy…

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They say a week is a long time in pol­i­tics. What about two years? When Sally Pot­ter (Orlando, Gin­ger & Rosa) started writ­ing The Party, it was the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion and David Cameron’s Tory party had just emerged vic­to­ri­ous. “The Labour Party, the left-wing, suf­fered a very big de­feat, but also didn’t seem to have any iden­tity,” says the Bri­tish writer-di­rec­tor. “They didn’t seem to have any courage about speak­ing the truth. That was very dis­il­lu­sion­ing and dif­fi­cult.”

Yet sub­se­quent events have changed faster than you can shout, “Oh Jeremy Cor­byn!” “Since then there’s been Trump, Brexit, the rise of the right, the cri­sis in the Na­tional Health Service,” says Pot­ter. “All of those things were rum­bling along un­der­neath.” Rather than de­rail her script, this razor-sharp com­edy about a mid­dle-class gath­er­ing of aca­demics and in­tel­lec­tu­als be­gan to feel all the more pre­scient.

Re­call­ing Who’s Afraid Of Vir­ginia Woolf? and other take-downs of the bour­geoisie, pre­pare your­self for a dis­as­ter-party like no other, as newly pro­moted op­po­si­tion MP Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) hosts an in­ti­mate soirée for old friends to cel­e­brate her pro­mo­tion to shadow min­is­ter for Health. Join­ing her for an evening where more than just the hors d’oeu­vres get burnt are a cast of Ti­mothy Spall, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son, Cil­lian Mur­phy and Bruno Ganz.

Shot in black-and-white and run­ning at a brisk 71 min­utes, The Party is, as Pot­ter puts it, “a com­edy wrapped around a tragedy.” But she took the task se­ri­ously, check­ing out real politi­cians’ homes, via a “friend of a friend” who works in West­min­ster. “Politi­cians of the left are very care­ful. First of all, they don’t make much money anyway, un­less they have a pri­vate in­come. But they are very care­ful not to do os­ten­ta­tious dis­plays of wealth.”

With Labour never named as Janet’s party of choice, the di­rec­tor sim­i­larly avoided Brexit talk, de­spite the fact the rapid-fire two-week shoot took place over the time Bri­tons voted to leave the EU. “It would be a mis­take to put a knee-jerk re­ac­tion into it,” she says. But as a film that cap­tures the na­tional mood, it couldn’t be bet­ter timed.

ETA | 29 SEpTEm­bEr / THE pArTY OpENS NEXT mONTH.

PO­LIT­I­CAL TUNE Ti­mothy Spall and Pa­tri­cia Clark­son (be­low) play guests at the dinner party of Kristin Scott Thomas’ new MP.

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