Above The Stag
9 September 2016
Party by David Dillon, has proven itself to be somewhat of a phenomena over the decades since it was first performed. It’s last outing in London at the Arts Theatre in 1998 was a sell-out and now many years later, it’s back in a slick, and very funny production at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.
Take a group of five gay friends who have gathered for a house party, then add in a new flat mate, and a young friend, a game of “Fact of Fantasy”, throw in some shots of something pink and definitely alcoholic, and it’s not long before the games begin, truths are revealed and clothing becomes scarce!
Dillon’s play was a breath of fresh air when it was first produced. It was one of the first plays of its time that didn’t focus on HIV, death, angst or despair as being typical of the gay community. It showed that despite everything, there was still a lot to laugh at, and that as a community we valued friendship above all.
The guest list for this party is instantly recognisable for the most part:- Brian (Jamie Firth) – a sexy dancer with a unashamedly over the top take on life, James (Sam Goodchild) – the stunning smouldering gay guy you expect to see on the scene but never take home, Ray (Ben Kavanagh) – a young priest and a show queen, Kevin (Nic Kyle)– party host and all round nice guy and Philip (Lucas Livesy) who has been friends with Kevin for a while and knows what’s what when it comes to his friend. Add to the mix Andy (Tom Leach) a very innocent young gay guy who hasn’t been out on the scene, who complete with notepad, wants to know more, and Peter (Stefan Gough) the flatmate who harbours a secret (but not for long) love for flatmate and party-host Kevin.
Set in the 90’s, this is gay society free of social media and some of the more hard-core drugs that have come to be associated with the gay party scene in modern times thanks to plays like 5 Guys Chilling and the Chemsex Monologues. It could all become a very letcherous melting pot, but Dillon to his credit, shows that gay men can indeed be friends and have fun. The group’s acceptance of Andy is a case in point. He is quickly adopted by the group and his blossoming throughout the play has much to do with him not being treated as a piece of meat by the older party members. It’s this atmosphere that makes his eruption a sexual being all the more hilarious.
There are times throughout where I’m sure that we all recognise our pasts in the smaller, more intimate moments shared by the cast as they play the game. There are no rose coloured glasses in use here, but you can’t help but identify with times past.
Director Gene David Kirk, directs the production with great subtlety, these are real people that many of us have met. The play flows naturally and never seems fake, at times you’d swear someone had written this play verbatim from a real event. Sometimes, it’s not so much what is happening in the foreground, but what happens in the background. Glances, stares, and facial gestures (keep an eye on Tom Leach and Ben Kavanagh!) are often the Maraschino cherries on this deliciously baked treat. With a soundscape that includes showtunes, and a props list that includes a can of whipped cream, a bag of mini marshmallows, and a pink feather boa, you might get some idea of just what might be in store.
Party isn’t a play that involves long complex character studies. It’s a hoot, had me laughing throughout and wanting a return visit. It’s pure fun. It holds up a mirror on ourselves to a simpler time (we would never have admitted that at the time!) and reminds us that friends are everything.
Without wanting to provide any spoilers, I would offer this warning to prospective audience members
FULL FRONTAL NUDITY MAY DELIGHT!
Photos: PBG Studios