[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars)
The title of Party Piece is kind of a misnomer: this play is not so much about the party as it is the morning after. In the opening moments, the cast cover the set with empty bottles and cans and litter the floor with debris, skipping right through the fun to the inevitable destruction that follows, as four friends try to piece together what they did the night before. Part-monologue, part-physical theatre, Party Piece explores the concept of being young and having a good time with a cast of 18-22 year olds from the New Wolsey Young Associates scheme.
Originally devised by a different cast of four from the same programme, all of whom are now at drama school, this production is a kind of cut-and-paste, mixing the original script with additional material by the new cast, based on their own experiences. Further blurring the line between fact and fiction, the actors share their names with their characters.
As with anything written by people whose experience of life is necessarily limited, the script is littered with profundities that won’t seem all that profound even six months down the line, because your life and your perspective is by necessity so much in flux. But there are more than enough lovely thoughts and well-crafted lines to hold the interest, while some parts genuinely and quite movingly capture the state of being young, desperate for something new and stuck in the shit town where you grew up.
There’s also some pleasingly mature treatment of Jack Brett’s character, whose bisexuality is treated as incidental to his character, rather than its sole defining feature. Everyone is refreshingly calm about the whole thing: he isn’t haunted by it and the straight boys in the cast don’t act up in some hateful, laddy way. It’s all very casual and real. Jack has nothing to prove, he doesn’t need to unpack or analyse his sexual ambiguities, and this strikes a very adult note in a piece by young adults.
Much of the humour is puerile, although it’s in a way that feels correct, true-to-life, rather than pseudo-shocking or passé. There are also some funny set pieces, such as a nicely played, overly-aggressive karaoke sequence courtesy of Lorna Garside. All four performers are confident and likeable, equally comfortable with comedy or pathos, and the moments of physical theatre, used to highlight the repetitive nature of their cyclical, drunk/hungover existences, is surprisingly slick and even slightly acrobatic at times.
All topped off with a surprisingly heart-felt conclusion, Party Piece is not a particularly original, life-changing piece of theatre – but it is made with love, care and talent, by a promising group of young people.
Party Piece can be seen at Bedlam Theatre every day until 24 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.