Party @ Arts Theatre, London

cast list
Tom Basden, Anna Crilly, Tim Key, Jonny Sweet, Katy Wix

directed by
Phillip Breen
Starring the pick of a new wave of talented young comedians, Tom Basdens Party – which picked up an Edinburgh Fringe First Award in 2009 – packs a lot of humour and insight into its seventy-minute running time.

The play explores the attempts of a group of young people to put the world to rights by forming their own political party, and shows how ignorance, egos, petty bickering and blind adherence to procedure all mitigate against the intention to make a better world.

The big joke is, of course, that if these five, not so bright young things cant organise a meeting in a garden shed, how on earth are they going to tackle all of the worlds injustices?
Though consistently funny and well paced, the true charm of the play lies in the essential believability of the scenario. It may all seem exaggerated but this is how idealistic people in their late teens do behave.

All the characters are reasonably inquisitive and are passionate in their desires to improve the world as they see it, but their basic naivety and ignorance of so many issues soon becomes all too apparent. They argue over whether they should be for or against China, weighing up its torture record against its cuisine; form alliances within the group to outmanoeuvre each other; and insist on obeying every petty procedure to the letter because they believe that doing so makes them incredibly mature.

In the process, they prove how each individual is ultimately prejudiced, out for themselves, and intent on moulding the world in their own narrow-minded image. They supposedly stand for left-wing ideals, but when a sixth character appears he is brushed off because he does not conform to their white middle class expectations, and poses a threat by showing that he actually knows something. All this leads us to laugh at them for their stupidity, but we are also left to consider how their behaviour is reproduced (only slightly more subtly) by adults in all walks of life.

Duncan, the fifth member of the group, was only drafted in so that the partys publicity could be printed at his fathers firm, and much hilarity is caused by watching as he both exasperates and exposes the others with his constant questions. Duncan is nicely played by the comedian Tim Key and his slowness of manner contrasts effectively with the freneticism and frustration of the others. Jonny Sweet, as the would-be leader Jared, also stands out from amongst a strong cast, combining an oily David Cameron-style charisma with a decidedly lecherous streak.

Though strongly written, the play does descend into clich at the end, which comes as something of a disappointment; in fact it could have benefited from being extended, developing the characters and themes further. That said, with the inclusion of some priceless visual moments and several subtle gags, Tom Basdens play may well be one of the funniest parties that you’ll ever attend.

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