Whether hanging up bunting, laying out chairs or rehearsing songs, you’ll find yourself busy in bluemouth inc’s immersive new production, co-produced by Necessary Angel. Casting its audience as guests at a surprise party, you’re invited to participate, though when all the work’s done, it’s hard to see the point. While waiting for the guest of honour to appear, his friends start to gripe: “He touches hearts and then he breaks them”. Do the characters want to be here any more than the audience?
bluemouth inc. and Jennifer Tarver’s drama is strung together by participatory devices and abstract displays rather than a well-drawn plot. We discover quite uneventfully that the guest of honour (Stephen O’Connor) has been in the room with us all along, despite being dead. He looks on as his lover (Dan Wild) and sister (Susanna Hood) share their misgivings about him. If this party were a wake, O’Connor’s man would be Tom Sawyer.
Despite the plucky rhythms of Mariel Marshall’s bluegrass, this isn’t the most exciting soiree to attend. We mostly sit back and watch the characters delve into surreal choreography that insists they’re more connected than we believe. But it barely changes our minds about O’Connell’s character: a busy theatre performer and thankless lover with little time for others.
On our feet again, we look on as audience members volunteer themselves for a game of poker. But instead of chips, they bet on pieces of paper describing their life’s loves. It’s quite the metaphor for how people gamble away their priorities. But it doesn’t make for a good game of cards.
Like how everyone bickers about how best to surprise O’Connell’s man at the party, in director Jennifer Tarver’s production they’ll squabble over how best to remember him. Even he will eulogise himself (at least he admits it) by reminding us that he’s been represented only in pieces, never as a whole. From that, the play says we shouldn’t judge too harshly. But glimmering bunting aside, this exploration of grief and loss has barely scratched the surface.
Party Game is on at Wee Red Bar until 20th August. Click here for more details.