Brighton Fringe 2011
The nightmare zone that is the result of trying to run the perfect small children’s party
Imagine Abigail’s party, but where Abigail is a four or five year old, and it actually is his party – but still off stage , and his mother is 21st century vegan, not seventies kitsch. And then slap it up into a fast running farce, with some old characters with odd twists like the old children’s entertainer whose act no-one really wants, and some spanking new characters like, er, the clown and of course, that comic staple, an ozzie balloon modeller maker who can only do two tricks.
Fleur Shepherd starts the show as Philippa the neurotic caffeine-free house mother with perfect tension – she maintains, for an unfeasibly long time, an expression like she has her lips perpetually clasping a sour pickled onion, bursting out with her own bossiness and desire to control the perfect party. But all the cast deserve mention, the hen-pecked husband and his terrible guilt, the "manny" (that’s a male au-pair) like a six foot Manuel from Fawlty Towers.
Doing farce is difficult: it needs sharp writing, great timing. Kaye Conway’s writing was crisp and never obvious except when you wanted it to be (you were always waiting for Karma’s name to be mispronounced again). The Perfect Party was persistently funny throughout, well staged in the sense that you had lots of hilarious pair and trio set pieces, shorter comic monologues, tripping in one after the other without ever losing the plot. There were little un-maskings that illustrate this.
The “manny” could have stayed an idiot cliché, a bumbling foreign national who speaks no proper English (and we’d still have laughed, cretins that we are!) – but he does, you see, speak English very well: pretending incomprehension is the way he survives the endless direction from Philippa, Once able to reveal his fluency to the Ozzie balloon modeller, he is able to begin to further his ambition to take drugs and party in London – but only if he catches the snake.
The clown has another story, and really has come to the wrong party in a very significant way, that gradually emerges. If you want to know how to play wrap the pig in a blanket you’ll have to see the show (and no you won’t find it properly referenced in the Urban dictionaries on the internet – this is either true comic invention or truly deep and obscure sexual research).
The different stories unfold with both comic and dramatic effect, and it all builds to quite a touching ending. The comedy had a lot of heart in it as well as being technically well put together. You never meet the children or the other parents, this is the backstage of the character’s lives, and therein is all the comedy. It’s a lively, energetic show with great comic writing and dead-on characterisations from all the actors.