BBC Radio 7, 22 August 2009
Revived over twenty years ago in an adaptation by Rodney Ackland at London's
Apollo Theatre, this tale recounted the experiences of the Skinner family, a quiet respectable unit of husband, wife and two
daughters, who are about to go to a party when their entire world is rocked by a series of revelations. Daughter Millicent
(Amanda Waring) has returned from the colonies on the death of her husband Harold (Richard McCabe). It turns out that she
has murdered him on account of his alcoholism; but she has cleverly manipulated the evidence to make it seem like suicide.
Once again we are back in familiar Maugham territory, as the author exposes the seamy
underbelly of middle-class life. Mrs. Skinner (Dorothy Tutin) is a social gadfly, perpetually concerned with her public image,
even if it means neglecting her daughter (played by Tutin's real-life subling Waring). Mr. Skinner (Derek Waring,
Tutin's actual husband) is an ineffectual prig, preoccupied with going to the office and returning home each evening to the
proverbial pipe and slippers. They have married Millicent off to an unsuitable partner in the belief that it will be her "last
chance" of happiness, preventing her from becoming an old maid.
Before the Party gradually dismantles the Skinner's expectations, leaving
them with nothing. They cannot go to the party; how could they cope with the shame of knowing that Millicent is a murderer?
Maugham has a final joke at the family's expense by implying that the deed itself doesn't actually have any significance for
them; what matters more is that Millicent actually told her parents. To put it bluntly, she commited a social faux
pas. This short story, the last in the Maugham's Eye View series, once again proved how the author liked poking
fun at the middle classes, even though he himself did not live among them.