If you want to have a laugh and a bit of fun in the frenzied days leading into the festive season look no further than the latest offering at The Owl and Cat Theatre. After Party was written by Michael Thebridge, his first produced play, and is skilfully directed by Gabrielle Savrone. It is the day after the night before and it is all about hangovers, nausea and regret.
We’re talking about a pitch meeting with clients at an advertising agency – Opus – looking to try to win $2 million worth of work on the morning after that agency’s boozy Christmas party. Someone had the not so smart idea of holding the show and tell at 9am and those from Opus that show up are all well and truly under the weather. The young lady heading account services wanders in first, but she quickly leaves the room to vomit. She had a night of attempted debauchery, of which she is carrying physical evidence.
Next up is the copywriter, who can’t quite remember all that went down. Suffice to say, though, that he harbours guilt. The graphic designer won’t take off her dark glasses and wolfs down McDonalds, the closest she can get to hair of the dog. The man responsible for strategy is ropeable and shrill, and decides that the answer to his issues is total truth – damn the consequences. A major stuff up awaits and just when you’d think it couldn’t get any worse it does, because the creative director, the guy who has done most of the work on the account, decides not to bother attending. You see, he’s feeling right at home at a “tribal love-in”.
Into this atmosphere of high tension and angst walks the client, an insurance company, as represented by the marketing director and the marketing manager. The marketing director is cynical enough to begin with, but as the pitch – not surprisingly – falters, her cynicism turns to dismay and then to downright disgust. She is not at all afraid to give the agency pieces of her mind along the way. But after the whole shooting match unravels a strange thing happens …
Michael Thebridge wrote After Party to be entertaining and that it most certainly is. After spending five years working as a copywriter in branding agencies – and attending an obscene number of alcohol-filled agency parties – he felt like he’d built up enough of a dossier to tell a story. While the play isn’t strictly autobiographical, Thebridge claims the characters are an amalgam of people, personalities and experiences that have crossed his path over the years. All I can say in response is that the mind boggles.
He has succeeded in bringing in the silly season with mirth and merriment by virtue of this tongue firmly planted in cheek show, in which exaggeration is the name of the game. Thebridge was keen to touch on the world of millennials in the workplace, too. As he puts it, “agency life can be pretty demanding. And juggling career pressures with personal ups and downs – and attempting to do it all with a façade of complete togetherness – isn’t an easy task.”
The longer the play lasts (and its running time is a touch over an hour) the funnier and more outrageous it gets. I loved the sting in the tail – the twist that comes just before the end.
My favourite character was the hyper-real strategy guy, wonderfully played by Lukas Meintjes. Hissy fits, tears and vitriol are his stock in trade. Thomas Ian Doyle, too, has a great sense of timing in bringing to life the genuinely perplexed copywriter. In fairness though, all the characters are well developed.
Stephanie Evison-Williams brings shock and awe to account services, Hannah Koch gives attitude to graphic design and Claire Sara has a “take no prisoners” approach to marketing. As to why Jack Matthews is a little sheepish as her second, you’ll have to see the play to find out.
Perhaps After Party is the timeliest of reminders about what can go wrong if one decides to overindulge. In any event, it is a hoot and goes down a treat. It is playing at The Owl and Cat Theatre until December 21st.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television