Review: PARTY GAMES!, Theatre Royal Windsor

The production is currently touring the UK

By: May. 20, 2024
Review: PARTY GAMES!, Theatre Royal Windsor
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Review: PARTY GAMES!, Theatre Royal Windsor

“We didn’t win.” “But we didn’t lose.”

Written by Michael McManus and directed by Joanna Read, , Party Games! is a “comedy-drama” that gives audience members an inside look into the political world of the United Kingdom through the “One Nation” party, which has been created in opposition to the other existing parties.

Their leader, John (Matthew Cottle), becomes Prime Minister of a minority government. We are brought into his office to see the experience of not only John but the his advisors, Luke (Jason Callender) and Candice (Krissi Bohn), his wife, Anne (Natalie Dunne), Deputy Prime Minister Lisa (Erica Tavares-Kouassi), Chief Whip (William Oxborrow) and newly-hired tech genius Seth (Ryan Early). 

The main storyline for the show appears to be how Seth, a former member of staff at Universal Technology, is harvesting the data of as many people in the world as possible,  to gain information for the Prime Minister. We are introduced to Medianne (voiced by Debra Stephenson), a Siri-like piece of technology placed in the centre of the stage. Seth appears to have the opposite political viewpoints of others within the One Nation party, only wanting to cause chaos and willing to gain power through any means possible. 

Unfortunately, while this could have been a fascinating look at how technology can have an effect on the political world and how power can corrupt, it ends up feeling like a cheesy 1990s drama with some new technology thrown in. Though there are plenty of different sideplots, none of them are truly fleshed out, leading to dozens of questions that are left unanswered.

Why (and how) was the One Nation party created? What role does Universal Technology play in this world? How did such an incompetent man like Luke gain enough respect to be the leader of this new political party? Why did Seth leave Universal Technology for politics? How does Luke know so much about philosophers and still not know basic words? And why does the Chief Whip have a tarantula named Maggie?

There are a few out-of-place jokes throughout, including a disappointingly recurring one in which the Prime Minister farts and is even given anti-fart pills after they are ordered by Medianne. A few of these jokes could also be considered insulting, including one random bit about a nonbinary protestor and their pronouns.

There are also so many different disasters being thrown at the audience, making it difficult for one to decide which should be focused on. Should we be concerned about the lights constantly flickering on and off because of supposed blackouts? Is the United Kingdom going to go into lockdown because of toxic wind from a volcanic explosion in Iceland? Will Scotland finally get a referendum? The main issue ends up being one in which a protestor is hit by the King’s car outside of Buckingham Palace, but even this is quickly brushed aside for more jokes. Seth truly becomes the villain of the piece by the end, with no real justification for his actions. 

Along with issues with the script, there are also some set (designed by Francis O’Connor) and sound (designed by Beth Duke) issues that plague that show. While it is fun to see the doors automatically gliding across the stage, there is really not enough space on the stage for them, which leaves many props being left in the wings, not hidden by a curtain, making for some distracting moments. There were also several technical issues with prerecorded music that threw off the performers, leading to some mess-ups with lines and movements of props.

One aspect of the show I enjoyed was its creative lighting, designed by Chris Davey, which was used to depict a range of things like televisions and cameras without actually having the props on stage. 

Party Games! tries to be a satiric look at the state of politics in the United Kingdom but ends up simply being a sad reflection of the state of the world with unnecessary fart jokes. It has an interesting concept but leaves the audience wondering how they should be feeling, unsure whether to laugh or simply sit in confusion. 

Party Games! is currently touring to Cardiff (21-25 May), Cambridge (4-8 June), Worthing (12-15 June), Bath (18-22 June) and Malvern (25-29 June).


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