I don’t go to many plays. I have seen plays, I’m not a total philistine, but I mainly like it when there’s a big famous American film actor in them, and for the most part, I prefer musicals in the West End because you get more singing and dancing for your inflated ticket price. However, due to it having comedy connections and not being in a typical, velvety, warm-Becks-serving West End theatre, I went to see Party by Tom Basden last night at the Arts Theatre in London’s Covent Garden (where I once saw Richard Herring do Christ On A Bike). I really enjoyed it, but I am going to try and explain why like a theatre critic would, even though I hardly ever go to the theatre to watch people sitting around a talking and not dancing or singing.
Party was the toast of Edinburgh, and I met and interviewed and was charmed by Tom and co-star Tim Key on 6 Music the week before last, so these elements led me to it. It also starred Jonny Sweet, Katy Wix (whom I sat next to at the Comedy Awards the year Not Going Out was nominated, and with whom I feel a kinship as I co-wrote the episode in Series 2 which introduced her character Daisy) and Anna Crilly. Katy and Anna have stormed Karaoke Circus on more than one occasion too. See why I was so drawn to it!
They play five young people in a shed/summerhouse forming a political party. There is one set, and the five of them are pretty much onstage, in the same crap chairs, for the duration, but the narrative is artfully constructed to create peaks and troughs out of their naive bickering without anyone being shot, having a nervous breakdown or being outed as a paedophile. There’s a bit in it where they are all arguing and Tim Key’s character, Duncan, sits in silence and just reacts, facially and bodily, and it’s a moment of pure, beautiful theatre. It’s full of funny lines – a credit to Mr Basden – and the satire is done by stealth, but it’s often the performances, the nuances and the reactions, that make it special. (I am going to mention director Phillip Breen here, as directors never get mentioned, and he has blocked it and staged it brilliantly, and must be at least partly responsible for some of those skilled reactions from the actors.)
Party runs until March 13, and details are here. You can stay to see Tim Key’s Slutcracker some nights, too, for a discounted ticket price, which I didn’t, but should have.