Hope Theatre, London – until 28 January 2017
“Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still”
Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem managed the remarkable feat of having two musical adaptations thereof running in the same year in New York, one of which – by Michael John LaChiusa – will be the first show in the newly rebranded The Other Palace next month. Getting in early though is Mingled Yarn Theatre Company with their own cabaret-influenced interpretation of The Wild Party, running now at The Hope Theatre.
It is musical, rather than a musical, as the show opens with a marvelously sultry take on Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ delivered by the supremely confident Anna Clarke (a performer so good you suspect she must have some Strallen blood!). And as she’s joined by Joey Akubeze, we’re soon whisked away into the decadent world of vaudeville turns Queenie and Burrs and their fabulously louche but fatally lustful lifestyle, complete with aggressive fruit-eating.
Director Rafaella Marcus has her pair play all the parts in the poem, all of the guests alongside the key couple, and it is a gift of rapid-fire characterisation. The rhyming verse, once you get used to its lilting cadences, brings a vivid sense of raucous life and Minglu Wang’s set and costume design plays up the theatricality of it and its delivery, layers of clothing stripped away to reveal new outfits, new personas, new emotions as the night progresses.
Reinterpreted pop classics (Carly Rae Jepsen, White Stripes, even Bon Jovi in a surprisingly effective take on ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ that needs to be recorded) again add to the meta-ness of the production but perhaps sap a little of the pace. But Will Alder’s lighting intensifies the dark jealousy that lies at the heart of the story and the overall effect is a highly charismatic mix of gin, sex, violence and pop – what more could you want from a party?