The Wild Party at the Hope Theatre
A performance above an Islington pub will transport audience members to the decadent Jazz Age, telling the story of a troubled couple who throw a wild party in an attempt to salvage their relationship.
Based on a poem written by Joseph Moncure Marsh in 1928, theatre company Mingled Yarn’s stylised adaptation of The Wild Party is brought to life at the Hope Theatre with an array of party-going characters, portrayed with great skill by Anna Clarke and Joey Akubeze, and a minimal set design showing the grittier side of the decade’s excess.
With direction from Rafaella Marcus, the play begins with a cabaret-style performance of Britney Spears’s Toxic. Using modern pop songs to break up the text gives the night a vaudevillian feel. It works to some degree, and this opener is performed with great zeal by Clarke, but as the drama builds up this inclusion feels a little unnecessary, often taking viewers out of the poem’s frantic mood.
This is an ambitious production, which brings a piece of writing to life in a heightened way. The actors deliver the hyper-rhyming couplets with fantastic pace, fully knowing their rhythms and using the text to great effect. Despite some moments being a little confused as the performers jump from one role to another, Clarke plays the iconic part of showgirl Queenie with a perfectly bittersweet air of a troubled star, tarred by an abusive relationship with Akubeze’s Burrs, and transforming into other party-goers with great physicality and distinctive vocal variations.
Although Akubeze’s changes were occasionally less clear – the two actors portray 16 characters between them in an hour-long show – both players throw themselves into each part with a conviction that creates a frenzied chaos on stage – one that occasionally seeps into the audience as the cast comically break the fourth wall.
At one point, a red table transforms into a bathtub – supposedly filled with illicit gin – representing the supply of alcohol for this wild, wild party. Minglu Wang’s set is minimal, but it works in the theatre’s small space, with onstage costume changes that gradually unveil the true colours of each character as the poem reaches its climactic end.
The actors’ chemistry makes the piece fizz, and the show reaches its peak by the end of the party, as the lights dim to create shadows of the characters’ former selves, before tragedy, almost inevitably, strikes.
Photos: Alex Fine
The Wild Party is at the Hope Theatre from 10th until 28th January 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Read our interview with director Rafaella Marcus here.