Teenage house parties; loud music, cheap booze, angst-ridden love triangles. Who’d have one? Well, Zest Theatre have just finished touring the country with theirs, and they’ve received nothing but praise.
The concept is fresh. Recreate the living room space of an average family home and invite the audience to gate crash a surprise 17th birthday party. Step through the door of Sam’s house and you are no longer a detached spectator but a participant in the drama that unfolds. With a pair of wireless headphones you can treat the performance like a silent disco, tuning in and out of the channels to listen to the two strands of narrative, but you are also encouraged to get involved in the party atmosphere; eat the snacks, take advantage of the dubious punch on offer and dance to the music.
The storyline ticks all the boxes. There’s difficult relationships with the opposite sex, there’s lots of sexual bravado, problematic relationships with alcohol and even more problematic sibling rivalry: all the topics you’d expect to encounter from a theatre company who produces shows specifically for young people. All the characters in the show were trying to define themselves in some way, but this theme isn’t dealt with in a heavy-handed way, and the young people in the audience were really enjoying themselves. If there were more theatre companies who created good quality productions with the under 25s in mind, then perhaps this would encourage a stronger, more long term engagement with theatre. And then perhaps we wouldn’t have to listen to the same, age-old argument that the theatre is populated only by the middle-aged and the middle-class.
Although this particular reviewer felt quite ancient next to all the school-aged audience members, it didn’t prevent her from doing some awkward granny dancing and generally reliving her youth. She was, however, quite happy to leave the theatre knowing that her teenage years were behind her, along with all the associated pressures and anxieties that the cast of Gatecrash recreated so vividly.