It’s Cameron’s birthday party, but as unexpected guests start popping out of presents, the celebrations take an unusual turn. When Wonder Woman, a man dressed as a chicken, and a shy girl who has never been to a party before show up, the cycling, tumbling, break-dancing and juggling begin in Nearly There Yet’s acrobatic circus show.
Artistic Director of Nearly There Yet Kaveh Rahnama, who plays Cameron, leads and steals the show – unlike the other performers, he seems just as confident in his acting abilities as his circus skills. His petulant birthday boy, greedy for presents and unwilling to share, lends depth to an otherwise superficial story. Narrative, action and setting never convincingly link up in the production – the birthday party, with its random attendees, is just a convenient backdrop for showcasing various talents. For a show that is about spectacle rather than substance, the tricks and routines are not always as well-executed as audiences might expect – the choreographed dances are sometimes sloppy, the tricks occasionally go awry.
It is a wise move to programme a play about a party in the February half term holidays, when crowds are already in a jubilant mood and the sizeable turnout creates the perfect festive atmosphere. The ideal audience of The Party is large and loud, happy to join in and there for a good time. They create the conditions for the show’s success – their enthusiasm and very vocal participation mean that it is in the auditorium, rather than on the stage, that the real party is happening. There would be a significant impact if the audience were less willing to get involved – the show is at its best when the performers are interacting with the audience, whether these moments are scripted parts of the play or improvised responses. A hyped-up full house is an exceptionally excitable community, and one that encourages a forgiving eye, so though the show’s tricks and routines could be slicker, this is viewed as charmingly unpolished rather than unpracticed. Watching The Party in the right setting, it’s feel-good fun, but less favourable circumstances – a smaller, quieter audience – would potentially expose the show’s weaknesses all the more.
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