Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Theatre review: Dead Party Animals

There's a time-honoured tradition of actors giving themselves both a job and a showcase by writing a monologue, and the latest is Thomas Pickles, a young actor who appeared in the RSC's 2012 Merry Wives of Windsor (half of whose cast seem to have been there tonight in support.) He performs Dead Party Animals, in which a teenage boy recounts a Friday night out in his small Northern town: from trimming his pubes shorter than he'd intended, to going to a club with his mates, right through to the consequences, of vomiting and hangovers. A thread that runs through the whole night is Emma, the sister of one of his friends and the reason he went out in the first place. As he tells us of his sweet attempts to grab her attention, though, there's some details he's keeping from the audience.

This is an entertaining hour, with some good one-liners and quirky ways of looking at the world. It certainly works as a showcase for Pickles' acting - he could do with toning down his mannered gesturing, but he displays versatility and emotional depth.

I wasn't quite as convinced by Dead Party Animals as a piece of writing; there's an emotional core that feels like it has something real behind it, but it wears its influences too much on its sleeve. The scenes of boys and girls getting ready for a night out owe an obvious debt to John Godber, while the occasional forays into verse are reminiscent of far too many other pieces - to the point where it's sometimes easy to get distracted trying to figure out what a particular section reminds you of. I also wasn't clear how literally we were meant to take the hallucinations the narrator seems to be having, which he insists aren't drug-fueled.

Still, Pickles the actor deserves to catch a few casting directors' eyes. There's promise as a writer here too, but only if he finds a voice of his own.

Dead Party Animals by Thomas Pickles is booking until the 24th of May at the Hope Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes straight through.

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