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Review of Party Skills for the End of the World – Shoreditch Town Hall

Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall. Credit - James Berry
Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall. Credit – James Berry

With a name like Party Skills for the End of the World, you could be forgiven for being unsure entirely what to expect from Nigel Barrett & Louise Mari’s latest production. Both Mari, one of the original founding members of Shunt (a performance collectively known for thinking so far out of the box that the very existence of boxes themselves can be in question), and Barrett are key proponents of challenging and original theatre. And Party Skills for the End of the World is no exception.

A whirling dervish of a performance, this production grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let you go until it’s done. A smoothly crafted show, the overall effect was, to me, like a variety show set around a single theme. The theme, of course, being the end of the world.

The first scene is set and, without giving away too much, the first setting is a ‘meet and greet’ style open environment. I actually wasn’t sure if we had entered the performance area or if we were in a holding area of sorts, to be moved on once the main setting was ready. It was the former and the performance began in earnest, introducing several of the cast and the first circus skills/magic element.

Hard though it may be to see how we move from this lighthearted setting to the downfall of mankind, the able cast and well-developed use of the building make the transition seem smooth and while the change in mood is naturally unsettling, the flow of the production serves it well and I found myself invested and engaged throughout.

Not that we ever see much of the end itself, more the aftermath. And Party Skills for the End of the World doesn’t try to overstretch itself and extend the setting too far which I think is in its favour. The impression is given that events have transpired that aren’t entirely clear. And that works. With the cast as good as they are, the fact that the piece keeps to what it can deliver is admirable and makes for a high-quality result. The apocalyptic element of the show brings us back to a slightly more traditional performance style where we are more ‘performers and audience’ but there’s never much time to get settled as something new always appears. And the route they take to get from immersive to staged setting is excellent. You’ll know it when you see it.

Following this second setting (too many details of which I can’t divulge for fear of spoiling the surprise), there is a third element to this, in a third setting. This time it’s off to the Basement where we are given free reign to explore. And there is much to explore. Each cast member has a dedicated skill they have chosen to demonstrate and/or to offer a crash course in. These range from music and dance to more practical skills like hunting and there are even some purely whimsical elements for the enjoyment of those slightly overwhelmed who need a small break.

Lovers of traditional theatre may find themselves frustrated at the slightly surreal style the narrative has but there is a narrative there. A show that has elements of truly immersive theatre and more traditionally staged scenes as well as combining live music, character acting, circus skills and more can often feel like a runaway train but Party Skills for the End of the World didn’t give me that impression and I felt the underlying themes really held it together.

This is an experience, not just a show and I am confident in saying that the cast and crew offer everything necessary to make this a truly memorable evening. Like any such production, you get out of it what you put in so open your mind as wide as it’s ever been and give it all you’ve got. You won’t be disappointed.

5 Star Rating

Review by Damien Russell

The skies are strangely orange. Things aren’t going as well as we thought. The rent’s gone up. Money is tight. It’s a bit too warm for the time of year. You can’t breathe this dirty air. You’re not sure who you can trust any more. What is that man doing over there? What did she just say on the news about missiles? It just feels like the end of the world is coming…

Drink anyone?

It’s time for an adventure. For a party. For an epic night out.
It’s time for us to teach you everything you need to get by when the end comes. And for us to celebrate everything that’s made life worth living

Party Skills for the End of the World
Created by Nigel Barrett & Louise Mari with Abigail Conway
Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and Shoreditch Town Hall



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