I was sitting in the sauna of Gulliver’s Hall, the immaculate party house in Gloucestershire, with my old friend Jack, when suddenly the conversation turned serious. A few moments ago we’d been catching up on what had been going on in our lives over the past couple of years, but now the conversation had taken a turn.
“You’d tell me wouldn’t you?”, he said to me, looking deep into my eyes. “Can I trust that you’re faithful?”
No, he wasn’t being over-protective of my husband. We were in the middle of an intensely enjoyable game of mafia, the dinner party game that popular BBC TV series The Traitors is based on. The game had been taking place all day in the many spaces of the rambling Cotswolds house we’d rented for the weekend.
I quizzed my friend Carla during a game of croquet, tried to work out if Nic was lying to me while we soaked in the hot tub and decided Alice was telling the truth as we pushed our children on the rope swing.
My friends and I first played mafia together nearly 20 years ago when we were all in the same class at the Oxford School of Drama. For those who haven’t watched The Traitors, it’s a slightly more complicated version of wink murder, where players are assigned the role of either villagers or mafia – or faithful or traitors, as they’re known in the TV game. The faithful must work out who the traitors are by paying close attention to everyone’s behaviour and body language, while the traitors have to blatantly lie to their friends – which is why our drama school favoured it as an acting game.
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We timed our weekend reunion with the final of The Traitors last Friday, 26 January, driving from our various bases around the UK and convening in the large country kitchen of the seven-bedroom farmhouse. The giant table, which had been created from an oak tree that fell in the grounds 50 years ago, easily accommodated our tribe of 19 people for a welcome meal cooked by the couple who had the least distance to travel. Eleven kids at one end and eight adults at the other.
We then the fire in the medieval stone fireplace of the large the sitting room and draped ourselves over the various armchairs…