Some people get into politics because they want to change the world. And some people are just in it for the cake. Seriously, where’s the cake? What kind of party is this without any cake?
Tom Basden’s “Party” (directed by Daniel McCusker) delighted an audience at Smith’s last night with a genuinely funny script performed with excellent comic timing.
Wide-eyed and innocent Duncan (Lachlan Matthew-Dickinson) thought he was going to a birthday party only to discover that he has been recruited as the tie-breaking fifth member of a brand new political party. And possibly also Minister for Employment since he’s the only one who actually has a job.
The name of this new party? They will tell you when they all agree on one. Their platform? They will tell you that… when they all agree on one. So far they’ve looked at China and decided that, yes, they would like to be friends with it.
At first louche, pretentious and smug hipster (played by Joel Barcham, who impressively makes the character likeable) holds sway but the arrival of Duncan shakes his control over the group. Duncan knows nothing about politics and his patter of innocent questions slowly reveals that he’s not the only one in the room. Debate starts to grow to the point where the diversity of opinions chokes the group, preventing them from making any decisions or getting anything done.
Just like in a real democracy.
Despite the big themes covered in the play – global warming, China, Leonardo DeCaprio – this isn’t harsh political satire. It’s an affectionate parody of a flawed political process that is redeemed by the faith of the characters in that process. And while the characters disagree, fight and bicker they also have a lot of respect for each other, and for the diversity of the group itself. While we may laugh at all of their grandiose and ineffectual plans we still like the characters and want them to succeed. And even though the show lacks the bite of true satire it is still extremely funny.
A special word needs to be said about the costumes, which do an excellent job of conveying the characters. Even before the characters say their first lines we know who they are just from the way they dress. The characters themselves are representatives of types (the hipster, the feminist, the newbie) and never change, however they are consistently themselves, and the performers all make them feel like real people rather than stereotypes.
The play’s main drawback is its static staging. This is partly due to the venue: the small stage coupled with the table that is the main component of the set limit movement. The actors spend too much time in the same place and the play sometimes veers close to being visually uninteresting (fortunately the script is never boring). Also while the humour comes from the characters being unable to make any progress, after a while you start to become infected with their inertia. If the play had been longer this would have become a problem, but at a crisp hour-length performance it does not overstay its welcome.
“Party” is recommended for its fond and hilarious look at party politics, a welcome change from the much less funny behaviour we routinely see in Question Time.
When: 6,7,8 June 2014
Time: 7pm – 8pm
Where: Smith’s Alternative Bookshop (76 Alinga St, Australian Capital Territory 2601)
Price: Adult price: $20 / Concession $15 (ID required)