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Party

29 June 2018

Make Everybody Political (by the Shedload!)

Party

by Tom Basden

Alex Payne at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 30th June

A review by Celia Bard

Brexit, Trade Wars, Donald Trump. In today’s political climate tensions run high. Even before these current issues there has always been intense political debate. Who can blame a group of five young adults with high ideals for wanting to form a new political party, and to change the world? Can they do any worse than any British Parliament of the day, often split down the middle on so many issues! Take comfort, they seem no more to distinguish between the woods from the trees than do present day political parties, wanting to extol democratic values but caught up in endless discussion and debate, going around in circles until a vote is taken and the matter settled.

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The setting for this unlikely group of students, assembled under Jared’s leadership, is a garden shed transformed into a make-shift conference room but still with the tell-tale signs of assorted DIY, garden equipment and general old tat amongst the flip charts and filing cabinets. The group’s intention is to draft a manifesto for their new political party. They want to change the world but have no idea why or more importantly, how. They are not short of issues: China; sex trafficking; cycle lanes; unfair trade coffee practices; what to call the party, ‘The Friendly Party’, ‘Peace in the Middle East Party’ or ‘Gladios’; and more importantly when exactly they should take a break and cut into the cake.

Party, produced by Alex Payne, from the team behind the OSO Pantomime, Sealed and Punk Rock is ably directed by Will Jarvis, himself an active writer.

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The play begins with Jared, the appointed leader, Jones, Mel, and Phoebe raising their arms high in a display of democratic agreement about China. Duncan, new to the group and only there because his step-father runs a printer’s shop, is confused but eventually raises his arm too, still not knowing what the group is voting for other than whether they were ‘for’ or ‘against’ China. It turns out the others are just as clueless and allow themselves to be railroaded over minutiae such as the correct pronunciation of ‘abstentions’.

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The genre of Party is political satire: witty, sarcastic, and outrageously cynical. The actors, under tight direction, rise magnificently to the occasion. What the script lacks in plot is made up by the very funny stereotypical representations of a group of politically minded students who talk a lot but don’t seem to know very much. The cast is strictly disciplined, and the actors are very much in the moment, appearing very natural. The interaction between them is superb, quick at picking up on cues but understanding the importance of pregnant pauses to hit home a point. Good use is made of the acting area and the actors successfully manoeuvre each other, the props, and other pieces of stage furniture with ease.

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Each of the characters played by the cast is well defined. Jared cleverly portrayed by Alex Hill manages to appear likeable even though he displays some overbearing traits in his attitude to the two women; he certainly does not like to lose an argument. In many respects he has some of the characteristics of a natural leader, but he lacks knowledge and tries to win an argument by drowning out the others. His counterpart is Mel, played by Hana Jarrah. Mel is fiery, bolshie, outspoken. She is assertive and quick to take offence, e.g. her comments about her ‘invalid’ car. Hana’s superb acting skills and sense of comic timing prevents this character from being weighed down by over-the-top stereotypical feminist argument. Daisy Jones as Phoebe is delightful as the would-be mediator but without the knowledge or skills to carry this role through. This actor is able to work on two levels as seen by her ability to suggest her strong feelings for Jared without saying a word. Harrison Brewer as Jones gives another great performance managing to convey a childlike immaturity and physicality in his attempts to be a productive member of the group. Duncan, played by Joel Coussins, is wonderful in the way he can combine naivety with common sense. He is oblivious to all political rhetoric but is elected leader of the group by default, which means he can tuck into a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake and celebrate his birthday. After all he thought he was going to a social party, certainly not a political party. Although Will Jarvis, the director, taking on an acting role as Shortcoat appears just briefly, nevertheless he succeeds in making a great impact in this cameo role. He is the only character who has some real knowledge and understanding of political issues; thus, he represents a threat to the group and is very soon ‘kicked’ out.

 

The whole of the cast and its director, Will Jarvis, must be applauded for injecting real life and comedy into this political satire. It would have been very easy to have played this script for laughs, but they refrained from doing so and thus succeed in highlighting the foibles of political argument and behaviour. Although short and sweet this is a production not to be missed.

Celia Bard
June 2018

Photography by Alex Stenhouse

 

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From → Drama, Reviews

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