Z Theatre Company consists of a bunch of likeable first year drama students from Hull University. This ‘original’ play is little more than a substandard ‘Abigail’s Party’ rip-off but it is redeemed by a young cast, who - after a shaky, nervous start - soon settle into injecting life into a script that ordinarily would be better dropped into a recycling bin (having already been recycled itself).
We start - somewhat bizarrely - with a fire-safety warning, given by Jerry, the elderly neighbour who narrates some of the action. His impression of someone burning to death is genuinely alarming, not least because I think he probably gave himself a few nasty bruises when crashing to the floor. All in the name of art, eh?
The setting is a New Year’s Eve party, hosted by Bill and Anne. Anne is worried about ensuring that all her guests have a good time - after feeling stung by criticism of her other soirees - and does her best to make provisions and to be the perfect hostess. The evening, however, has other tricks in store - did I mention ‘Abigail’s Party’?
Jerry intrudes as the unwelcome guest and interferes in the marital disputes of the couples at the party, offering unsolicited advice on babies, anal sex - ‘One up the rectum doesn’t affect ‘em’ - and much more besides. There are some parts which even I blanched at; the jokes simply aren’t that funny to those who don’t count ‘The Inbetweeners’ as essential viewing.
One couple’s marriage is on the rocks. Meanwhile, unworldly Hope is set up on a blind date with inexperienced Justin. There is a lovely part in which Jerry listens in quite obviously to their wooing. His face shifts from one lover to the other and moves progressively closer. This subtle comedy is then undermined by his jumping under the table to deliver cunnilingus to Hope, while pretending to be Justin.
The party ends - rather predictably - in tragedy, as Jerry’s health deteriorates. As the bodies pile up on the floor, I have the pleasing sense that we’re reaching the end. Then - as with the strange beginning - we have a song about needing to go to the lavatory (not their words) while watching a play. I don’t need the lavatory as it happens but I’d quite like to leave now anyway.
So, the laughs were too few and the dialogue is at times clunky but the cast is rather promising and I’m sure would fare better with a stronger script.