Gatecrash by Zest Theatre puts you at the centre of the party. A rehearsal room at the Lyric theatre is transformed into birthday boy Sam’s living room. His parents are away and he is under strict instructions for no parties to take place. However, his big sister has other ideas and everyone’s invited to tweet, Facebook and let loose to celebrate Sam’s surprise birthday party.
You are actively encouraged to drink, eat pizza, dance and play games in this one hour party disaster. Gatecrash is an immersive piece of theatre that uses the headphone technology from silent discos to allow the audience to eavesdrop into different conversations. You wear headsets for the duration and you are in control of switching your own channel onto different conversations so each audience’s experience is tailored to them.
All the actors have distinct characters. Each of them remind you of ‘that’ person at a house party but that familiar quality is what makes gate crashing so comfortable. Melissa Grace plays Jazz, Sam’s big sister. She welcomes and hosts the party with ease and is one of the most naturalistic characters. Elena Valentine embodies Imogen, a posh boarding school girl whose clear insecurities give a compelling performance. Luke Vernon plays Jonno; loud mouthed and arrogant alpha male whose outrageous comments guarantee entertainment. Amy Forde plays Rachel, brooding and angry, her emotional outbursts are on point in this chaotic house party. Finally, Alex Harvey Sporle plays Sam, a superhero-obsessed introvert and birthday boy. His quiet manners and kind heart balance the group well.
Gatecrash is slickly set up from start to finish and it’s very clever what director Toby Ealden has done. Ultimately you are in control of your own enjoyment at the party because you decide when to participate. If you wanted to sit in one chair and not move that’s fine; if you want to do a dance solo and shots that’s fine too. You do need a bit of courage for this production, but the cast do their best to make you feel comfortable as there are no boundaries. Gatecrash is a brilliant thing to do with a few of your friends because for the production to really fly, you need everyone to be in a party mood. For example, at one point I was handed a slip of paper saying ‘I dare you to do the Single Ladies Beyonce dance routine’ and low and behold a few minutes later the song came on. One of the characters did it, but I could see others with the slip of paper (myself included) discreetly slip it into their pockets ignoring the request. That was completely fine to do but I can’t help but feel I should have just gone for it because I had the most fun when I participated. I hid behind the sofa from the complaining neighbour and there was an excited tension in the air which united the audience. By the end of the production everyone was dancing.
Zest Theatre’s aim is to make theatre accessible and relevant. Originally aimed to inspire young people and break the rules of how to behave in a theatre space, Gatecrash is well worth participating in and makes you feel like a teenager again. This immersive and choice lead theatre is the future and Gatecrash has everything an authentic house party should have; vomit, police, snogging and signature dance moves…so why would you miss it!
Gatecrash is playing at the Lyric Theatre until 18 March 2016. For more information and tickets see the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre website.
Photo: Roy Ealden