Tom Basden’s Party takes an entertaining look at Generation Y’s apathetic and vaguely disdainful opinion of modern politics. It’s an hour of repartee between four university students – Jones (Tom Scurr), Mel (Elizabeth Hope), Phoebe (Florence Hapgood) and Jared (George Vafakis) – and Duncan (Luke de Belder), a grown up with a real-life job.
They are attempting to set up a new political party, but unfortunately have no informed ideas about politics. This was always going to be a rich comedic vein for mocking both politics and modern youth culture. As they blunder about trying to form their “foreign policy” (they’re in favour of China, and most Muslims) and appointing “Cabinet Ministers” (Mel is Health Secretary because she has IBS), there are plenty of laughs.
Basden has created an effective group of personalities, and various undercurrents of tension emerge over the course of the meeting. The hour-long run time doesn’t leave much time for character development, but the actors do a decent job with the thin material. Luke de Belder’s Duncan is particularly likeable in his haplessness and Elizabeth Hope clearly has a lot of fun with the incessantly irritating Mel.
There is effective use of physical comedy and long, awkward pauses, though some of the cast members rush their punchlines. Generally though, the delivery is good and there is an easy, natural chemistry between the five members of the party. Some aspects don’t quite hit the mark though – for example it’s not entirely clear why Short Coat (Steve Hodgetts) makes a brief and horrendously uncomfortable cameo.
The students’ adorable incompetence and complete inability to decide what the party stands for – or even what it’s called – are funny, but also serve to parody the flaws in our actual democratic system. Party shows us that the most patronising people are usually the least intelligent, and that paternalistic policies are hardly ever borne out of genuinely good intentions.
There is great potential for this play to hit its audience harder – with some development Party could be elevated from a fairly one-dimensional comedy to a provocatively satirical piece.
Reviewed by Annabel Mellor
Party is playing at the Pleasance Theatre until 13 March 2016