Monday, 23 January 2017

REVIEW: The Wild Party at the Hope Theatre

Before theatre as we know it, oral storytelling was how tales were shared amongst the community. Mingled Yarn Theatre is devoted to preserving this tradition by offering classical texts, new plays and adaptations to audiences in various venues across the UK. At the Hope Theatre for a short run, the company is presenting 'The Wild Party', a piece written in 1926 by Joseph Moncure March and remained unpublished until 1928, due to its outrageous and sex-fuelled content.

Queenie is a vaudeville dancer who shares an apartment in Hollywood with Burr, the clown who jumps on stage after her act and also her possessive lover. When Queenie's wild spirit clashes with Burr's jealousy, a drug and alcohol-fuelled party becomes a whirlwind of sex and blood. Set in the golden age of jazz and played by only two actors (Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke) 'The Wild party' is the detailed account of that doomed evening and its ugly outcome.

Continuously swinging between drama and comedy, the play falls short on both sides and, across the room, I can see the confused faces of my fellow audience members whilst they try to fathom the dynamics on stage. A hasty narration spoils the build of tension and the lack of detail tarnishes the glamour of the allegedly ostentatious surroundings. A rollercoaster of words spewed (quite literally) at the speed of light doesn’t leave enough time for the scenes to sink in and some truly unimaginative costumes hardly make up for the simplified visuals. 

Nonetheless, Joey and Anna perform the whole hour-long two-hander with high stamina and are excellent singers too. Thanks to their tireless impersonations, I can get the gist of what is going on, despite the bare set represented only by a bathtub, some clothes hangers and the beautiful colour-changing spheres chosen by lighting designer Will Alder.

Director Rafaella Marcus introduces the use of fruits to support the wobbly
entertainment but watching the actors smearing bananas on each other or trying to speak with a half-chewed pear in their mouths is cringeworthy. A feature that could be acceptable in a piece of experimental theatre – as I learnt not long ago – becomes bewildering in a grimy tale set in the 1920s. 

Overall, 'The Wild Party' has great potential and the storytelling form could add plenty of sparkle to it but, on this occasion, the whole doesn't come out as expected. Hopefully, Mingled Yarn Theatre Company will take this run as a learning curve and manage in the future to bring to light the bloody shimmering tragedy portrayed by Joseph Moncure March.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★
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