The Hope Theatre
The Party – or should we say ‘work event’ – opens with a projection of Boris Johnson’s public address broadcast introducing the ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the rules are laid out, Samuel (Gavin Fleming), in shirt and tie, and Dean (Louis Cunningham), in trousers and apron, sneak down into Downing Street’s wine cellar. Samuel is keen to point out that the room is not on the building plans and therefore, technically, doesn’t exist.
Exposed by the shadows across the sheets, where Boris’s head looms, Dean bends Samuel over a box as they engage in some quick high-stakes love. Director Max Mackay’s experience in film is utilised effectively within this mixed media image. Juxtaposing Johnson’s austere delivery with the clumsier one Dean provides Samuel is highly comical. Sexual innuendo litters the opening of the play. Though successful, it could have benefitted from a little more peppering rather than too much sauce.
Fleming’s script explores the use of language and how politicians wrangle their communication skills to dance around their guilt. It is well honed and accurate. Dean grows throughout the performance. His reserved and naive nature fades as his investigation around Samuel’s background builds into a fiery accusation where his true purpose comes to light. Cunningham handles the role deftly.
Adriane (Madeleine Page) frolics through the aisle to hunt out Samuel on the thrust stage. Prefacing her requests with the information that she has now broken up with her husband of five years, Adriane makes some more frisky moves. ‘We could do something on the cabinet table…’, Samuel confirms – ‘we could work effectively for the good of the country!’ Having learnt of Dean’s existence and realising she won’t be taken home by Samuel anytime soon, Adriane is offered a bottle of champagne to share with the guests upstairs. Though there is a lot of satisfaction in our knowledge that this bottle is infused with Samuel’s urine, the plot could have benefitted from a stronger character arc for Adriane.
The play undulates between quiet reflection and periods of spat. The tragic penultimate scene begs the important question ‘When will this really be over?’ Though powerful, it is a minute too long, resulting in the scene losing its potency. But we are reminded that all people need to be loved and cared for. As Samuel says ‘Just because I don’t cry doesn’t mean I don’t care. I just care differently’.
Written by Gavin Fleming
Directed by Max Mackay
Produced by Louis Cunningham
The Party has finished it’s run as part of Camden Fringe at The Hope Theatre. It will next play at Barnes’ OSO Arts Centre 19 & 20 October, further information here.