“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Speakeasys. The Prohibition. Flapper dresses. The Charleston. Jazz. The conviviality of interwar period known as ‘the Roaring Twenties’ has passed into myth. It was the first decade in the 20th century where culture was aimed at the youth, rather than their forebears and in the United States at least, there was economic prosperity. While this led to the Gatsby-esque escapades in the affluent classes for which the decade is famed, for much of America that prosperity did not trickle down to them. At the same prohibition (of alcohol) was enforced and ‘speakeasys’ sprung up in metropolitan areas, where the consumption of ‘illegal’ alcohol brought brisk business. With this state of affairs, it’s small wonder that observing the letter of the law on this issue was ‘flexible’ and the need for ‘parties’ to blow off steam proved popular among all walks of life. It is in this world that The Wild Party takes place.
Written by Joseph Moncure March, one of Hollywood’s earliest screenwriters, the poem that is The Wild Party ‘pushed the envelope’ in its heyday of how candid ‘poetry’ could be and its depiction of ‘antisocial’ and ‘unacceptable’ behaviour. Under the direction of Rafaella Marcus, this cultural touchstone has been brought to life, encapsulating the spirit of the age.
Playing Queenie and Burrs ― two cabaret artists who live together and work at a Los Angeles club, as well as a host of other characters ― Anna Clarke and Joey Akubeze give their all, delivering meter-perfect diction in tandem with exemplary singing and dancing, all within reaching distance of the audience. If their energy was flagging, it certainly didn’t show. Each of the characters they played were clearly defined and just as important, the narrative was easy to follow, naturally elicting the audience’s interest throughout.
Above all, The Wild Party is FUN. Evocative of the 1920s certainly, but also has its eye on the here and now. While many of the tunes wouldn’t have been out of place a century ago, there are also ‘jazz rearrangements’ of well-known modern songs, a style adopted in the film Moulin Rouge. The Wild Party packs a lot into its hour duration.
The Hope Theatre has proven time and time again that it has become the de facto home for the modern musical on the Fringe. If one has fond memories of Her Aching Heart and looking for another ‘pick-me-up’ during these winter months, one need only go to this intimate and innovative show.
© Michael Davis 2017
The Wild Party runs at the Hope Theatre until 28th January 2017.