A heap of sand sat blob-like at back of the stage, and the absorbed body became apparent. Slowly, a limb emerged and outstretched like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Nonsuch Theatre have been developing The Party's Over for two years, and now they're ready to tour the production internationally. Its UK premiere at Nottingham Lakeside Arts' Djanogly Theatre offered an insight into its inevitable success, affecting the audience with laughter and heartache, all in the same breathe.
This dance theatre production takes us on a journey; from the busy, suited lifestyle of mobile phones and briefcases, bodies charging from one disgruntled meeting to the next, to the other-worldly underbelly of the unknown.
Our protagonist, Peter (Finlay McFarlane), finds himself torn away from the harsh light of the “city” and all its quick expectations, on a path towards unfamiliar characters lurking in the shadows; sometimes garishly happy, but altogether intriguing. The lighting used throughout the piece is stunningly thoughtful; blasts from side stage mixed with smoke create vortexes and a sense of impending doom, with music flitting from the carnival-esque to the delicately dark.
I couldn't help but feel that I was in the palm of a hand throughout this show. Grinning gloriously, it was difficult not to giggle at the Sims-like voices, slapstick movements and expressions, but suddenly – and consistently – all the joy would be ripped away as we were plunged into confused temptation, an overwhelming sense of being lost.
At times, it was dreamlike; at others, nightmarish. Watching Peter innocently grip his briefcase as he made his way through “the other side” was sadistically satisfying, with the comedy of characters, who seemed to have been there and done that, acting as a buffer to the existential dread.
Sand was a significant metaphor throughout the show, with moments of realisation punctuated by its presence in various forms. None were quite as beautiful as the moment sand poured smoothly from the skies, onto each individual character's head, in a stream of hourglass elation.
This production is a lot to deal with emotionally. Tearing from one feeling to the next, it's a story about self discovery, and one that ultimately ripples with smiles. It sits somewhere in between Stranger Things, Lost, The Mask, and that Aladdin scene where Jasmin nearly gets done in by Jafar, all with a sprinkling of Inception.
Wonderfully odd, incredibly considered, and downright funny. Best production I've seen in ages.
The Party's Over premiered at Nottingham Lakeside Arts' Djanolgy Theatre on Tuesday 27 June 2017
Nottingham Lakeside Arts website