REVIEW: Party

Carine was told to have low expectations and to be ready to laugh at the freshers if everything else went wrong, but in spite of some errors she found this show a pleasure to watch.

ADC Comedy Corpus Playroom Drama Freshers Freshers' Play New Cellars party Pembroke politics

Walking in, I wondered what I had let myself in for: several posts publicising the play had highlighted a lack of lines learnt, props and healthy freshers.

With ‘dropouts, replacements and kick outs’ (according to just one Facebook post), my assurance in the play was wearing thin. However, the publicists of Party have not done the show justice – tonight’s performance was brilliant and audience members were pleasantly surprised by the standard of the play which was put altogether in just over a week.

Party, otherwise known as the Pembroke Freshers’ Play, opens up to the beginnings of the formation of a new political party. After a freeze frame of the characters voting, the tone of the first half of the play is soon made apparent as the play gets underway which can be summarised as ‘jovial political incorrectness’ – expect Muslims are a foreign country (almost) and linking Armenia with the Balkans.

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This comedy, written by Tom Basden, was well-made of by the actors who were each individually very good, especially for their first debuts on the Cambridge theatre scene. Opening-night nerves were not seen and aside from a few lulls in the dialogue where lines were in the process of coming out (I assume), the characters managed to come together for the most part of the play to create a light-hearted play that saw several particularly funny moments. Shoutouts especially to Ciaran Green (Shortcoat) who was outstanding, though his role was significantly shorter than the others, and Hannah Short (Jones, as well as co-director of the play), who replaced last-minute the scheduled Dan Sanderson and who carried much of the play, taking hold of the action and bringing pace to several scenes.

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Hannah Short co-directed Party and played Jones

Though perhaps some more energy was needed to jumpstart the show, top moments of the performance include the realisation that without democracy this political party is merely space programmes, and when Jared’s mother (Lia Johansen, also co-director of the play) – a buddhist – calls out ‘get the fuck out of here!’ from the back of the audience which cues Shortcoat’s entrance.

The pace of the second-half of the play appeared better than the first as the characters moved from their seats more often which livened up the atmosphere. For example, Jones breaks the fourth wall suddenly by changing seats to the front row (don’t say I haven’t warned you) and exhibits his Zoo magazine.

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Lia Johansen co-directed the play and played Jones’ mother.

In all, some things could have been teased out more in the play – for example, Duncan’s (Cyriac Cyriac) misunderstanding that this is not a ‘partay’ but a political ‘party.’ Furthermore, with little variance in lighting – which remained consistent throughout – there was a greater reliance upon the actors to create the ambiance, plus its slow cues left the audience partially confused at the end whether the play had actually finished. This could have been aided with some more punch from the actors’ final lines though.

The online bio of Party begs us the question whether these freshers managed to pull off a play in just over a week: a great cast who do themselves too little justice by suggesting their piece of work, made in under a fortnight, merits anything less than pride, this play was well-received by the audience and was a pleasure to watch.

3.5/5 stars