Review: Afterparty (TheSpace Triplex)
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Plays about teenagehood usually fall into one of two traps. If they are created by grown-ups, whose visions of their teenage years are drowned with nostalgia and erase the parts they don’t want to remember. If they are created by teenagers, odds are they are too close to the thing to represent it honestly, and are still learning how to create theatre in the first place. Fbomb’s Afterparty attempts to strike just the right balance, with a story that focuses on class and ambitions. We meet a group of five friends from a small working-class town as they embark on their “last big night out”. When everything goes horribly wrong, and they are sentenced to do community service together a few months later, they must confront themselves and each other to work out what they really want from life.
This setup follows a classic template for a one-act play with secrets to be revealed and conflict to unfold. The plot follows the steps exactly as one would expect. This is not to speak ill of Afterparty – writer Rachel O’Regan knows just when to drop hints so the audience know what they have to look forward to. The script provides a blank canvas; it is entirely dependent on the cast to bring the characters to life, and the director to provide the spark and timing it needs to avoid being just another play with people standing around and talking.
Thankfully, director Hannah McEachern more than delivers. She brings out the best in the cast, and when the mood changes from playful to angry to emotional she always sticks the landing. The characters start as cookie-cutter archetypes but are elevated by the performances of the cast; Sally Cairn’s Lexi is ambitious and fun, but as her more malicious characteristics emerge Cairn sells them perfectly. Annie Welsh also defies expectations as she peels away the layers of her wealthy and entitled character Ella to reveal someone far more vulnerable than we expected. Most captivating however is Linzi Devers as Jess. Playing the “special” character (i.e. she’s a wee bit daft), Jess has arguably the least arc of any character in the play, and yet Devers steals the show with her endearingly ditzy delivery and mannerisms.
As an ensemble their chemistry is easy to become invested in; we can believe in their friendships and bonds in the first scene, and at the same time still see the divisions beginning to crack. O’Regan’s play approaches topics like growing up and class conflict with an impressive amount of existentialism but doesn’t allow the dialogue to become bogged down in its own ideas. This is a play for people who were raised on the likes of Wild Child, the St Trinian’s remake, and Some Girls, and asks what happens when the character types (the brainy one, the posh one, the emo one etc.) have to leave school and face the real world. It’s fun, punchy, and rises above expectations thanks to its brilliant performances. Four stars.