Review: Party Piece – Pulse Fringe Festival

The morning after the night before. That moment when you try to remember who you are, where you are and, more worryingly, what exactly did you get up to the previous night?

Party Piece, a first work by the New Wolsey Theatre Young Associates, a group of young people actively seeking a career in the arts, takes a tongue firmly in cheek look at teenage party antics. For any parents of teenagers in the audience it may be a frightening experience, while they may suspect what their offspring get up to on a night out, the reality is even scarier.

A mix of monologues, stand up and physical theatre the piece looks wider than the four performers on stage, an amalgam of various character traits that provide us with an insight into the outwardly carefree attitude of young people. In many ways it seems like a stage adaptation of the teen television series Skins.

There’s the lad who drinks and parties to boost his confidence, the girl who ends up singing out of tune to karaoke then worries about her friends trashing her house, the jack-the-lad boasting of his sexual conquests, and the easily led youth who is always up for his mates’ dares and normally ends the night naked.

Beneath the bravado and drink fuelled confidence, though, there is a level of self doubt and desperation. The need to feel part of the group, to conform and the looming fear of having to leave home and head off to University all making these seem, to those teenagers, like the last ever chance to party.

Devisers and performers Keisha-Paris Banya, Joe Reed, Tom Turner and Chris Yarnell have drawn on both their experiences and those of their peers to create a series of vivid scenes that flow with an almost cinematic fluidity. The quartet work well together and deliver strong performances combining both the overtly comic with an underpinning of vulnerability. It would be easy for these characters to slip into stereotype and caricature but while the characters are necessarily larger than life creations they never cross the line into unbelievability.

The brief for this group was to create a piece that would appeal to young people who don’t identify with theatre and this contemporary look at teenage life certainly hit a chord with the large number of young people in the audience.

The challenge now is to think how to convert that audience into the wider field of theatre.

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