This black comedy about competition appropriately takes the form of a game show. Clad in unflattering gym wear and fluorescent retro wigs, this trio of actors look like unlikely athletes. They clamber on stage to introduce themselves, with shrugging postures and nosebleeds, looking every inch high school misfits, and proceed to give us what is essentially a lesson in Darwin’s survival of the fittest. These three friends compete to be voted and perceived as the best.
The show somewhat parodies similar reality TV competitions as Jess, Chris and Jenna compete for our approval and entertainment. ‘We are doing this for you’, we are told repeatedly. Tasks range from water catching to skittle retaining to sob story contests. Every aspect of competition is explored, the bitterness of losing, the egotism caused by winning and the enjoyment of standing by to judge. Failing contestants are asked to hurt each other in various cartoonish ways, submerging each other’s heads in buckets of water, slapping each other. One of the most enjoyable tasks was the audience voting session. We voted on who was most attractive, who was most likely to have cheated on their partner, who had the best upbringing. The scary thing about it was how ready audience members were to participate, how natural and fun it felt.
‘I want to be so famous that all people talk about is who I’m dating and how much weight I’m gaining or losing. Then I’d write a blog about why they shouldn’t give a fuck about who I’m dating and how much weight I’m gaining or losing’, says Jess. Part-character, part-themselves, this theatrical experience hits close to home. Darkly comic, this play touches upon the horrible secret ambitions and self-scrutiny we all engage in. Defining life moments were narrated with self-aware comedy in order to illustrate why each contestant was so interested in winning. Chris and Jess had hilariously come up with soundtracks for these stories, which were appropriately self-affirming and motivating: one by Kanye West and one by Azealia Banks.
The role of big brands and companies in encouraging individuals to all aspire towards the same goals was shown elsewhere too and was eerily shown in the popular culture round. We were asked to think of a chart hit, a movie and a brand name for the contestants to speak for about for thirty seconds. They talked about ‘All the Single Ladies’, Inception and Nike with ease, emphasising how this generation is somewhat brainwashed by the same desires to succeed in various arenas.
Gym Party works on its insight, zany humour and fun but unintimidating audience participation. You should see it. You’re all invited and these guys are warmed up and raring to go.