Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall
BBC film critic Mark Kermode has a helpful maxim for assessing comedies: the amount of fun reported by actors on set is inversely proportionate to the fun an audience will have. This holds for immersive theatre, where performers act as giddy tour guides through their world, often darting amongst us. The lively cast in Party Skills for the End of the World, running at Shoreditch Town Hall this month, occasionally break the fourth wall with their occasionally contagious enjoyment of apocalyptic shenanigans – but, overall, the experience isn’t as enjoyable for the audience as it is for the cast.
A three-part routine, Party Skills is unique in the small scale of its ambition. Ostensibly a martini-fuelled, rapid first-aid course on how to survive some of the silliest apocalyptic scenarios imaginable, the production, whether owing to budget or vision, rarely challenges the limits of the immersive theatre form. Musical chairs, magic tricks, dance numbers and an extended musical interlude are all distracting enough, but are hardly sufficiently immersive for the show to merit its place in the genre. While the performers carry off each task with conviction, some acts are scarcely more edgy than children’s birthday party routines.
Ending with an impassioned monologue that displaces the lighthearted tone of the preceding show, but which is undeniably affecting (it’s a ten-minute segment, and a canny insight into “what we talk about when we talk about the end of the world”), Party Skills concludes in the basement, for more free-form activities and drinks (origami, speechwriting, a miniature café). Diverting, amusing, and passionately performed, Party Skills for the End of the World is an earnest work that could do with a more ambitious scope and vision.
Photo: James Berry
Party Skills for the End of the World is at Shoreditch Town Hall from 13th until 24th February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.