Party

Party isn’t that sort of party; well, it sort of is, and maybe it should be, but overall it isn’t – though it might be after it’s finished. Clear? Good. Now prepare for an hour of linguistic lampoonery in this stunningly clever show by Lyons Productions from the students of Exeter University.

Party is an evening of nonsensical non-sequiturs and delirious drollery that deserves everyone’s vote.

This team clearly has sound judgement. Rule number one: make sure you have a first class script. Tick. Choosing Tom Basden’s highly acclaimed play Party was an inspired move. His writing is concise, laugh-out-loud funny and allows each actor to bring his or her own interpretation and style to the characters.

Next, make sure you have a cast that can carry off a play requiring detailed attention to speech and pronunciation, combined with a split-second sense of timing and the ability to use a range of facial expressions. Tick. Anyone needing lessons in these areas should see this masterclass of a show. Everyone else should see it because it’s first class entertainment.

Four young idealists decide to form a political party that will address the needs of voters and save the world. They meet in Jared’s garden shed (though he prefers a more upmarket name for it). The gathering attempts to define party policy on a range of issues touching on China, Armenia, sex trafficking, unfair trade coffee and Muslims.

They also have to elect a leader in a transparently democratic manner which they attempt using two different voting systems in order to achieve a result that is acceptable to them all and not rigged – well, not much, anyway. This opens up the perils of tactical voting. Other urgent issues, apart from arriving at the 'Yes we May' campaign slogan and choosing the party’s signature colour, include whether or not to, if at all to, and if so when to, break for cake. Not a difficult agenda, unless you have a committee of these oddballs.

Jack Smail as Jared cuts an imposing figure, befitting the status he likes to think he has and keeps the inaction of the group moving in a pseudo-sensitive manner. Sophy Dexter’s Phoebe keeps her head down for the most part, marking the spreadsheet of ideas and minuting the proceedings (or not), while making somewhat delayed and rather dumb remarks – not that she has a monopoly on those. Jamie Gordon plays an amazingly slow and equally dumb Duncan who is less than clear about what is going on, why he is there and why they can’t get round to the important issue of eating lemon drizzle cake. Meanwhile Will Jones as Martin (Jonesy) and Alice Palmer as Mel engage in lively banter, she with deadpan sincerity and he with little political correctness.

The prospect of an entire play taking place around a table is daunting and puts extra pressure on the actors’ delivery, but director Alistair Lyons and assistant Sarah Sharpe keep this play moving and the cast rise to the occasion. Lyons also appears briefly in a short coat – you’ll have to see it for that one.

Result? Party is an evening of nonsensical non-sequiturs and delirious drollery that deserves everyone’s vote.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Party by Tom Basden is set in a humble garden shed in deepest suburbia, where four young idealists have decided to form a new political party to save the world from itself. The new fifth member, Duncan, sets about saving the world from them. Party is a comic play about small minds tackling big issues – China, sex trafficking, cycle lanes, unfair trade coffee, whether to call the party The Friendly Party or Gladios. And when, exactly, they should break to eat a cake.