Wednesday, 21 February 2018

REVIEW: Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall

The world has become an unsafe place to live in and, as well as strengthening our social skills, we need to acquire new essential expertise. Our survival depends on both.

For a start, we must learn how to make the perfect Martini: two parts gin and one part dry vermouth, shaken with ice and served straight with an olive. This is the best prop to hold if we want to look smart, whilst casually chatting to strangers. 

We are then instructed to mingle with others and, conveniently, a projection on the wall of the Shoreditch Town Hall council chamber lists some helpful tricks to remember someone's name. Repeat it immediately, use it regularly – but not too often – and commit to it. 

Stepping up to a lectern one by one, a woman and two men introduce themselves with unusual accuracy of detail. Full name, address, occupation and family members are the sort of information we candidly share on social media, but how does it feel when we do the same in face to face interactions? How uncomfortable is it to learn so much about a stranger?

The party continues in the assembly hall, were musical chairs is used as an ice-breaker. This is followed by a practical demonstration of several skills, including how to walk on high heels without suffering or how to use our trousers as a makeshift float if we get thrown off a bridge. 

Silent passers-by seem oblivious to the dramatic case scenarios presented, charging the dystopic nature of the scene. It feels as if our lecturers are struggling to send the message through, whilst the rest of the world simply doesn't care. 

An apocalyptic landscape slowly takes shape, swelling until an explosion of live music. Dancing is the ultimate skill to learn in order to stay alive. 

Words delivered with a microphone pile up, describing feelings and thoughts
both disturbing and familiar. Our most common fears are exposed, and all our nonsensical anxieties listed one by one. The tempo is engrossing and everything we see, hear or perceive makes sense, there and then. The coloured lights, the smoke, the sound of the drums bouncing from wall to wall envelop the speaker’s stream of consciousness. So meaningful and yet so abstract. Compelling and unsettling.

The end is near, but not quite there yet, and we are led into the depths of the building, where the Ditch has been transformed into an academy for survival and party skills. My mind flies to those people who went out on a Saturday night and found themselves fighting for their lives. 

Co-written by Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, with Abigail Conway, this is conceptual theatre at its best.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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