Party | The Invisible Dot

Party | The Invisible DotA quintet of young people, twentysomethings at most, are gathered in a room. One person is taking minutes and another believes she should be their leader, while a third thinks he already is. The fourth is constantly argumentative, and the latest arrival is under a complete misapprehension as to why he’s even there.

These five callow youths are, believe it or not, forming a political party. Unfortunately, they happen to be idiots.

Party is a funny little nugget of a play written by performer Tom Basden, running just under an hour and exploring a simple yet engaging comedic premise. The plot such as it is hinges mostly on the introduction of the fifth member Duncan, an awkward and rather dull individual whose ignorance of the political process his friends are attempting to embark on is only surpassed by his well-meaning disinterest.

As a matter of fact he’s only there because the others need a quorum, and they would rather he just be compliant and contribute as little as possible. What rapidly becomes evident, however, is that although the four of them all seem to have pretty strong opinions, they clearly have no idea what they’re doing, and even less about the issues they’re discussing.

The play, which comes across more like a prolonged skit built on a fairly straightforward premise, essentially pokes fun at the haughtily well intentioned would-be political activists that tend to crop up amongst the educated youth of the affluent classes. They toss around liberal buzzwords with notional conviction but essentially don’t know anything about the principles behind them, espousing the desire to politicise the disenfranchised, yet have little real respect or understanding for them. To whatever extent their idealism may be genuine, their “politics” are all too easily exposed as shallow default positions, their endeavour as much an in-fighting social circle looking for a new activity as a political party with any discernable agenda.

Party uses the effective and well-worn technique of using an “idiot” interloper as a foil, who through innocently asking a lot of “stupid” questions inadvertently exposes the ignorance, vanity and foolishness of the supposedly “clever” characters who initially look down their noses at him. It’s a classic device, and this material is a good example of it, with an uncomplicated scenario that uses few extraneous elements, and each of the five major characters is well-defined.

The framework aside though, the play’s style of comedy is, perhaps, something of an acquired taste, presenting these characters and their various degrees of idiocy in a very dry, deadpan style that’s at least a little reminiscent of The Office. With few overt “jokes”, the humour is almost entirely character-driven, which in and of itself can be very effective, but in this case depends a bit on how credible or familiar you find the characters. Although the strong cast did a very good job and had excellent comic timing, personally I found the material a little too soft and the characters a bit too implausibly naïve and uniformed for a group who would in any way consider themselves politically motivated. For a British comedy one might have expected something a bit sharper, but that’s not to say the show isn’t amusing; it certainly provides chuckles aplenty even if belly-laughs may be fewer and farther between.

For some relatively gentle mockery of the pretensions and folly of falsely idealistic youth, Party is an entertaining bite-sized comedy, well-suited for a short night out.

The Invisible Dot
by Tom Basden

Directed by Phil Breen

Venue: Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre | The University of Sydney, Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Dates/Times: January 12 – 15 at 8.30pm; January 16, 17 at 8pm
Duration: 55mins, no interval
Tickets: $30
Bookings: Seymour Theatre Centre 02 9351 7940 | Sydney Festival 1300 668 812 | Ticketmaster 1300 723 038

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