Such is the intention, at least, of the five characters in Tom Basden's new comic play, Party, which has just opened for a two-week run at Soho's Arts Theatre, about a group of misguided students attempting to redefine politics from the safety of a garden shed. (Sorry, "summer house".) As you would hope of a production that got rave reviews at Edinburgh, it is funny, well observed, and in some instances, a little painfully familiar.
Three boys (Basden, Jonny Sweet and Tim Key) and two girls (Anna Crilly and Katy Wix) have congregated in the summer house belonging to the mother of Jarred (Sweet), the group's de facto leader and resident sleazebag/puffball. Among the topics up for (rather aimless) discussion are China — "Are we in favour?" — whether you should throw away non-Fair Trade coffee when it's already brewed, and an extended gag involving names for their newly founded party: Jarred suggests "Gladios" ("It's Latin for sword"), while Basden's character Jones, a smart-arsed cynic in high-waisted jeans, prefers "The Righteous Party", a suggestion that is dismissed for being too readily connected to the Brothers of "Unchained Melody" fame.
Party poopers (from left): Anna Crilly, Katy Wix, Jonny Sweet, Tom Basden and Tim Key. Photographs by Pete Le May
Everyone here is, as you might already have divined, a bit of a div, though their knowledge of current affairs is probably at the same level as someone who skim-reads the Guardian — which causes much laughter from the audience, some of it nervous. Also thrown into the mix is Duncan (Key), a vague friend of Jones who has been invited because his step-dad owns a printing shop, but is under the impression that this is a party-party, not a Party-party, and has thus brought along a bottle of plonk.
Among a strong cast it is Key as the idiot-savant Duncan who has the most clout, bolstered partly by his recent success at Edinburgh, winning the main comedy prize (though Basden and Sweet have both won Edinburgh "best newcomer" awards), and also by the fact that the staging often places him as the central, sympathetic figure in a Last-Supper-but-with-wallies tableau. There are minor tweaks that could be helpful (on the press night, Basden's chair was facing away from the audience so that his adept facial nuances were hidden) and you shouldn't expect a story as such — it's more of an extended skit, backed up by some fine, clever writing. Still, for an enjoyable hour and a quarter with some of the rising stars of British comedy, it's got our vote.
Party by Tom Basden, directed by Phillip Breen, is at the Arts Theatre, London W2, from now until 13 March. www.artstheatrewestend.com