Theatre review: Party Game

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: We gather as party guests, at this latest immersive show by bluemouth inc. of Canada, and the Necessary Angel Theatre Company.

Traverse at the Wee Red Bar (Venue 506)

****

We’re handed a little party guide and pencil, and invited to help prepare the room at the Wee Red Bar, since the guest of honour is not here yet. There’s bunting, and a band, and wine in
plastic cups; there’s even a song of welcome being rehearsed in a corner.

Even when we seem to be ready, though – hiding behind chairs, waiting to shout “surprise” – the principle guest, Stephen, does not arrive; and so begins the gradual darkening of this 100-minute story, as we learn more and more about this character who is clearly with us – played by one of the actors – but yet not with us, since he has not appeared.

And it slowly becomes clear that what we are attending is not so much a party as a wake, for a man who lived a life full of ordinary joys, failures and betrayals, and is now no longer “with us”.

In Party Game, bluemouth have created a show that
suffers from a strange mismatch between the energy and skill involved in its creation and presentation, and the limitations of what it finally has to say.

It involves the powerful music and dance that is bluemouth’s trademark, some lovely elegiac writing about memories of Stephen’s life, and a level of invention, around the involvement of the audience in the event, that makes for a continuously enjoyable and sometimes touching 100-minute
experience.

Yet death is common, and coming to terms with bereavement one of life’s ordinary tasks; and for all the rich human quality of this show, it leaves a final sense of searching for something new to say on the subject, and not quite succeeding in its quest.

Until 20 August. Today 8:30pm.