With a general election mere months away it’s nice to get in the mood with a bit of satire to highlight some of the absurdities of politics, as well as some of the country’s best new comic talent. It comes in the shape of Tom Basden’s debut play Party, in the West End for a brief two-week run following it’s success at Edinburgh last year.
Five friends – Jones (Basden), Mel (Anna Crilly), Phoebe (Katy Wix), Jared (Johnny Sweet) and Duncan (Tim Key) – sit in a garden shed planning their path to political success. Surrounded by old bikes, cricket sets and general junk it’s a long way from the Houses of Parliament. Not that they’re likely to get there anytime soon, they’re an idealistic but ultimately hopeless band of student politicians, easily distracted by inter-group gossip and cake.
It’s Duncan, who seems most out of his depth (having mistaken it for an actual party rather than a political party) but it quickly becomes apparent that they’re all as clueless as either. Bickering over their policies towards every country in the world, the ethics of their coffee and, perhaps most fearsomely of all, over the name of the party. Ultimately though for all their ambition it’s Duncan who, despite his lack of understanding, eventually adapts best to ‘politics’.
Of the all round excellent performances it’s Key and Sweet who particularly standout. At times he treads close to caricature but Key is a near constant source of dumbstruck hilarity, while Sweet is suitably pompous/slimy/stupid/confident to pass as the groups self-appointed Prime Minister – perhaps why he made such a good David Cameron in More 4’s When Boris Met Dave.
The writing is also a real credit to Basden, those familiar with his stand-up may recognise some familiar traits as Party is stuffed with glorious puns, pop culture references and the odd dash of the surreal (Celebrities We Know). Yet it’s also surprisingly astute satire and builds to a fantastic finale, the political scheming of every party member clear to see as they battle it out in a suitably Machiavellian, if idiotic, leadership race. So while they might not get your vote they’ll certainly make you laugh – perhaps they’re not far from being a legitimate party after all?
Party is currently being serialised on BBC Radio 4. Listen here.