BWW Review: THE WILD PARTY, The Hope Theatre
Billed as the 'little theatre with big ideas', The Hope Theatre is a transformative space. This year alone, it's been everything from a hospital waiting room to a post-apocalyptic bunker.
Audiences at The Wild Party will leave amazed not just at how the space transforms, but the actors. Taking on 16 parts between them, Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke are perfect partners in rhyme in this sexy and stylised production from Mingled Yarn.
Written by Joseph Moncure March, The Wild Party follows a night in the life of cabaret stars Queenie and Burrs, and their eccentric friends drawn into this toxic relationship at a fateful (and fatal) party.
Director Rafaella Marcus is faithful to March's original poem, allowing the audience to listen to the natural wit and rhythm of the piece. There's something friendly and familiar about hearing rhyme on stage, harking back to a fairytale-like form of storytelling. There's no moral here though or happy ending, and Marcus expertly builds the tension in the climactic scenes with music.
This is not the only adaptation of March's poem to grace the London stage this year; Michael John LaChiusa's musical will have its UK premiere at The Other Place. Marcus's production is likewise lyrical and features modern songs, which serve as interludes throughout and introduce the audience to characters. While these are a nice nod to the vaudeville theme, they are somewhat unnecessary, particularly when the text already explains these relationships better than Britney Spears or Carly Rae Jepsen ever could.
Seating 50 people, The Hope Theatre is an intimate space. Minglu Wang's design makes it feel large, with a set which is minimalist verging on bare. With just one piece of furniture, it's left to the actors to convey character and scene changes. While the final image shows the mess and excess these characters live by, perhaps this could be shown more explicitly throughout.
Will Alder's lighting masterfully frames the show, making for some striking visuals: from the bright lights and giddy excitement at the start of the party, by the end we are in near pitch black, the characters literally shadows of their earlier selves.
In this two-hander, the chemistry between Clarke and Akubeze is electric; the first dance between Queenie and her new 'friend' Mr Black is the sexiest thing I've seen Off West End. Clarke is a born storyteller: oozing sex one minute to slapstick the next, she seamlessly jumps from one character to another. Akubeze gets a fun turn as pianist Oscar, however the differences between his other characters are sometimes a little too subtle.
"Let's raise hell" yells one character, at the height of the party. While a fun night out, this doesn't seem as wild as the name promises, and doesn't quite raise the spirits as much as The Hope Theatre usually does.
Picture credit: Helen Maybanks