Bottles of alcohol jostle against Schweppes and other colourful mixers. They crowd a coffee table littered with plastic cups where shot glasses spill over, roaming across a rug tucked neatly underneath. The booze moves boisterously too, taking over the sofa. A pouffe and fish tank rise out of the chaos, the thud of bass notes joining a wave of chatter to create an excitable tide. Already drenched in signs of a good night out, Daisy Blower’s set is awash with celebration as part-time drag queen Angus (Harry Trevaldwyn) and his flatmate Leah (Jude Mack) prepare for the biggest event of his career so far.
Written by Mack and Eliot Salt, Predrinks/Afterparty was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016. Told in two acts, the production stretched across separate evenings – its reprisal for the London stage however, sees it played over a single night. As soon as the lights go down, it is as if a starting pistol has been fired. The dialogue moves furiously, words sprinting from mouth to mouth. Comedy presents itself immediately, the tone of the piece suggestive of greats like that of Friends or The Big Bang Theory. Such is the calibre of Mack and Salt’s script that, despite the absence of a camera crew, it has the same flavour of a television serial were it being recorded live. Every character is instantly relatable – jokes stammer on their lips in an endearing social anxiety, and each demonstrate moments of physical awkwardness (particularly Olivia Marcus as Girl Guide Coordinator Jenny) that render them utterly charming.
Transitions are choreographed, which keeps the pace running at full tilt. While moving to an original soundtrack (designed by Will Irving), costume changes and inter-group dynamics are played out with verve. It is as if the characters as set on spin cycle, disappearing offstage and returning at various intervals. The narrative is typically driven two at a time, before the group flock towards the liquor once again. As they grow steadily more intoxicated, their drunken state becomes the source of much hilarity. This is especially true of the second act as it bears witness to a tantalizing game of ‘Vermouth or Dare’, marked by the addition of Angus’ die-hard fan Sazzle (played by Martha Pothen). Clad in a mint-green jacket and suggestive sequins, her text language and general pyromania sours the otherwise sweet festivities.
When solutions do present themselves, they are not saccharine; the event itself is refreshing, if a touch formulaic in structure. Ultimately, Predrinks/Afterparty is a fantastic example of the bright, young talent that the UK has to offer. Its real strength lies in its accessibility – the troop of misfits described as the “best kind of weird”. Together, they display their own internal rhythms and converse in a specific idiom built from what can only be perceived as years of companionship – the very element that gives those aforementioned TV programmes their longevity. Forget comedy gold, this treasure is priceless.
Predrinks/Afterparty is played until 16 March. For more information, visit the Drayton Arms Theatre website.