As guests of The Party, we are summoned to a masquerade ball like no other, where nothing is as it seems. Conceived and directed by Aoife Courtney and Deirdre Lennon (Ready Fire Aim) and developed in collaboration with Sabina Bonnici (FizzyThinking), The Party re-imagines the themes of George Orwell’s 1984 in a once-off immersive experience disguised as a PR launch for a new progressive political party.
A ‘party’ in both senses of the word, the audience are led to the basement of the alluring Morrison Hotel for an evening of music, alcohol, and social and political discourse. Enthusiastic, well-groomed Party members administer gift bags and encourage us to check our belongings into a cloakroom. There is a photo opportunity as we enter the orange-themed venue. Musician Laura Ann Brady plays autoharp and sings entrancingly. We are encouraged to be at ease, to drink and socialise. There is an annoyingly long wait before the event tangibly commences, but cogs are already turning unbeknownst to the audience. Admittedly, this reviewer spent an embarrassing amount of time chatting with someone who later turned out to be a performer planted amongst the 200 audience members. What follows are several speeches, another musical performance, and a series of guided activities engineered to engage the audience further. We are misdirected constantly from questions like ‘Where is your manifesto?’ and ‘Where are the candidates?’ All is revealed, and the answer introduces a much darker, more sinister undertone to the Party’s agenda.
Improvised acting is phenomenally strong throughout. Costuming and design help us to suspend disbelief and become increasingly engaged in the experience. There are some sound issues – Party members and audience alike were required to strain their voices to be heard.
Through media, participation and playful interaction, The Party forces us to consider a much more pressing question: what is the real cost of our online social interaction? We feel tricked, and it’s more than a little unsettling.