★★★★½ Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall
It is quite an achievement when a show manages to evoke your inner child, stir your imagination, and constantly surprise you while exploring the domain of adult fears. Party Skills for the End of the World does just that.
Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari started working together at the legendary Shunt collective, that took over warehouses, vaults, containers and disused factories around London and made innovative cross-disciplinary shows that had everyone asking for more. Following on this tradition, the duo first created ‘Party Skills for the End of the World’ for the Manchester International Festival in 2017, and they have now remade it for the Shoreditch Town Hall.
‘Party Skills’ is a bizarre mixture of immersive performance, promenade theatre, gig, activity centre and a boozy night out. It sounds bonkers but it makes much more sense as you experience it.
The performance takes place all over the beautiful halls – but also the grimy basement maze – of the Shoreditch Town Hall. The audience is taught how to make a martini cocktail, stand out in a crowd, defend against a knife attack, survive drowning, a terrorist attack or simply how to make a proper cup of tea or play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on an electric guitar. Among the constant shifts of our attention by playful and entertaining interludes, a narrative emerges that explores how much of our personality, daily life and behavior is shaped by our fears.
The show is pitched for people who do not like theatre or people who do and want something unusual and it definitely achieves that. I went with a friend who does not usually go to the theatre and he was engaged throughout this crazy journey. The show may not offer the grand scale and budget of other immersive theatre companies but in this way it avoids becoming a tourist attraction or just a night out for office workers. It is riveting political theatre disguised as an absurdist fun-ride through surviving adulthood in a big city.