THE companion piece, Screaming Blue Murder, has already issued its death rattle at the Grand Opera House in February.

Hull Truck Theatre returns to York next week to reveal what else happened at the Bagley Hall hotel on that fateful night in Black Tie And Tales, and this time John Godber's new play will be staged at the Theatre Royal.

Godber charts the small talk and big egos of a black-tie charity bash, as seen through the eyes of Bagley Hall's cynical and difficult night porters, Ronnie and Keith. They are Godber's spin on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Shakespeare's Hamlet, or maybe Tom Stoppard's spin-off, Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.

Godber depicts an upstairs-downstairs world of them and us, of police chiefs, lawyers, property speculators, businessmen and their bored trophy wives, and the enervated hotel staff.

The same cast of four is performing both Bagley Hall plays, and the multiple-role playing Fiona Wass is keen to stress: "You don't need to have seen Screaming Blue Murder. I don't think that is at all important because Black Tie And Tales stands on its own," she says.

"What John is doing in this play is poking fun at all those who move on those black-tie circles.

"It's a gentle dig at the vacuous nature of those events, designed to make the audience laugh.

"John doesn't like that ridiculous, banal small talk and he's taking a swipe at it in a humorous way."

Fiona notes a second theme: "He's also commenting on the worship of celebrity and asking if it's the right thing to worship the rich and their money, which is very topical at the moment with what's happening with the Beckhams."

Black Tie And Tales, York Theatre Royal, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568.

Updated: 08:55 Friday, April 23, 2004