The Office Party describes itself as an “anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, satirical, immersive performance debauchery”. It is a late show (that started even later than its listed time) that runs well into the night – a queer cabaret showcasing a variety of talent acts, with the underlying premise of it being an archetypal, underwhelming office party.
The use of the space is fun, with a “catering” table of odd cheese and biscuits and office-themed posters plastered on the walls. DJs Angel Hodgson aka Pegasus Boy and Beth Sitek aka DJ Name? have a strong playlist going, including a ‘Work Bitch’ remix, paired with a video montage of the cast in office scenarios. Performers move through the audience space and there is interaction between cast and audience members; we are asked to which department we belong and told we are fired, for instance. I noticed there were name labels and appraisal forms going around, but could not seem to source these to get involved myself. Seating also proved to be an issue. There were a number of seated tables marked as reserved, leaving everyone else to sit on cramped steps or the floor.
The show opens with Shryl Kole (Michelle Madsen) and Danly Steele (Lizzy Shakespeare) welcoming us to the office party, with jokes on finance and admin. We are then wheeled through a number of cabaret acts, including clowning, comedy, and dance. There are some great performers within this selection: I have never seen one person handle so many hula hoops (Mariam Olayiwola aka Amazi), and the audience reaction was strong. It is great to encounter a space that allows for lesser seen modes of performance in London’s theatre, with emphasis on queer acts. However, the night would benefit from a greater overall sense of cohesion and plot.
The office humour is surface level, with corporate lingo about HR and the financial year being the joke itself. This could be further developed. The premise of the show is tenuously linked to the content and does little to satirise the corporate world other than presenting absurdity. As a cabaret night this is all fine, but the concept of it being an office party felt shoehorned in and undercooked.
The Office Party is a strong concept, but disappointing in its execution. There are some huge themes that could be pulled out, but the show does not move outside the one note of absurdist mockery. The audience were thoroughly entertained, and it is an opportune night for variety acts, but the overall production quality could be taken up a notch to unlock its full potential.
Created and Produced by: Bait Theatre
The Office Party played as part of VAULT Festival 2023. It has now completed its current run.