During the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe,
Everything feels a tad tighter when it comes to the direction
Our host is Matt (Piers Hunt) who (for reasons still never quite justified) often ignores the theatrical fourth wall by chatting with front-row audience members and offering them sweets, while cleaning the home he shares with husband of four years Lee (Mark Ota). Lee has the flu, and is in no mood for socialising; yet, for Matt’s benefit, he promises to take his medicine and behave. Tensions rise almost immediately, though, with the first guest: camp, prudish Chris (Gregory A Smith) has long held an unreciprocated love for Lee and often regards Matt with hostility. Next at the imaginary door is handsome, gym-fit Darren (Luke Kelly), a work colleague Matt has invited because he’s new to the area. Then there’s Tom (Stephen Oswald), older and recently single again. Finally, a potential couple complete the set, although they significantly arrive separately: 19 year old Josh (Carlton Venn), for whom the gay scene is still all brand new, and then the potential object of his lust Paul (Ahd Tamimi), a part-time stripper.
The scenes which follow – divided by moments of stylised, nightclub-illuminated physical theatre – show the course of the evening, during which alcohol is consumed, tongues are loosened and the men’s inhibitions are shed along with their clothes. Some old rifts are bridged, new relationships are forged – or at least suggested – and thankfully nobody dies.
Good one-liners aside, there remains a lingering sense that the script still isn’t what it could be. It touches on serious enough subjects – the inherent narcissism of a hedonistic gay scene, the superficiality of dating apps, etc – but it’s not about them. Instead, Davies seems content to wind up some stock gay stereotypes – the gym-bunny, the bear, the twink – and, in the best sitcom tradition, let them bump into each in the hope something funny happens. Only Josh has anything resembling a character arc, ending up a much more confident person than when he first appeared.
While meaning no disrespect to last year’s roster of actors, one thing definitely in the 2015 show’s favour is its excellent cast; appropriately more diverse in terms of age, race and background, they more naturally delineate and inhabit the characters in a way that’s easily comprehensible. Everything feels a tad tighter when it comes to the direction; and the nudity, while still present, has thankfully lost its Full Monty stench. Yet the retention of the scene in which a front-row audience member performs the role of visiting – and stripping – fireman still jars. That fourth wall is there for a reason, you know.
I Went to a Fabulous Party is undoubtedly an entertaining night out; arguably, the only disappointment is that could still actually be a lot more.