The Wild Party, Hope Theatre

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By guest reviewer Martin Pettitt

The Wild Party, a simple and to-the-point title, perfectly describes the show as well as the evening I experienced. There was so much to like about this performance. Adapted into a performance piece here by Mingled Yarn Theatre Company, The Wild Party was originally a book-length narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March in the roaring twenties. Initially deemed too racy to publish, it has since become a seminal work finding ever more relevance as we venture further into the 2000s.

This is shown brilliantly in the production at the Hope Theatre by the inclusion of jazz versions of contemporary pop songs. So good are the interpretations and performances of the songs, that during the opening number it took me a while to realise it was ‘Toxic’ of Britney Spears fame. This linking of past and present and signification that some-things- remain-the-same despite the many social and technological changes, is negotiated expertly. The base material is great: the fantastic descriptions of the characters could just as much have applied to a glamourous ball at a celebrity’s mansion as a house party at your mate’s house. As good as the writing is, the performance matches it.

The show includes two actors reciting March’s poem with a few costumes and props thrown in. And with so seemingly little, by pure energy and alacrity, they produce something brilliant. Both actors seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Running, jumping, dancing and singing their way around the space, there is a warmth and charm in both actors’ performances. Anna Clarke is particularly charismatic with facial expressions so engaging you want to paste them on the faces of every person you ever meet again. Both alluring and hilarious in turn, she has great chemistry with Joey Akubeze who is a pleasure to watch as he switches between prancing around cackling with laughter to more masculine moments as he becomes the prince charming of the piece.

There are a few niggles; the moments the actors move around a large bath tub (that doubles up as a table) is awkward and causes a lull in the atmosphere, especially the clunk as the brakes are applied. The ending is also rather abrupt, so much so that the audience look confused until the actors almost had to start clapping themselves.

The actors don’t shy away from utilising the audience as props or showering them with shards of broken record or crushed fruit sputum. The Wild Party includes us all; there is the always the potential of danger here and that it could spill over at any moment. The Hope Theatre is, as are many pub theatres, quite an awkward space but as much as it is a big room painted black, the intimacy here creates an amazing experience and is a testament to fringe theatre. I could watch this show all day everyday it was so varied, intricate and utterly satisfying.

The Wild Party runs through 28 January.

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