This article was originally published to The Edge on 8th October 2015
If Aaron Sorkin were to take up writing a new TV series about idealistic and politically minded university students attempting to create a political party, the pilot would probably look a lot like this. Tom Basden’s 2010 script sees just that happen, as five students work in a shed to flesh out their bare manifesto, elect a leader, and name themselves. There’s also the promise of cake. Which, for their fifth member Duncan, seems to be the only reason he agreed to come to this ‘party’.
The script comments on British attitudes to politics and the often seemingly hopeless political process. This however makes it feel like more of a commentary on the well-meaning, usually immobile political conversations and movements born on the internet. Cat Lewis’ Mel for instance, is furiously liberal, and Lewis brings out the frequently impotent and self-important rage of her really well. She and Phoebe (played by Angharad Morgan) are the only women of the cast, and effectively create polar opposites in temperament. Phoebe is the most well-meaning and, save for Duncan, clueless of them all. The latter (played by Aidan Pittman) plays the party idiot, who knows literally nothing about what’s going on. This leads to both the clumsiest exposition and also some of the absolute funniest moments of the whole play, as the others explain what’s going on. For his part, Pittman makes a convincing fool, yet he’s importantly endearing as well. He’s a very obvious idiot, making little in the way of presumptions about his position.
That lack of presumption is not so for all the characters, as should be clear. Alex Scotchbrook’s Jared means to be the leader, of the debates if not of the party, and against his best intentions becomes one of the most condescending figures imaginable. When he’s put on the back foot, reacting quickly and emotionally to accusations of sexism, he’s even more laughable. Meanwhile, Will Cook as Jones has probably the least defined position in the group – more of a joker than Mel, angrier than Phoebe, not as arrogant as Jared. It’s difficult to be a strong comedic presence with such a difficult character, but Cook manages to make it work.
Party is about what would happen if you put five different sorts of idiots in a room together, and challenged them to complete a 5000 piece puzzle. Every member of the cast brings their different brand of stupidity to life effectively, and the direction by Andy Sugden and Ruthie Pinion is restrained and unshowy.
Party is written by Tom Basden and will be at the Annex Theatre on the 8th and 9th of October