Christmas hits City Road
Dirty Protest: Office Christmas Party
Various locations on City Road, Cathays
1st December 2011
Personally I feel the first of December is a little too early to be getting festive, but then I am known to my friends as ‘The Grinch’. Luckily for me Dirty Protest’s Office Christmas Party wasn’t all tinsel and cheesy pop songs, instead they showcased five intriguing new plays that tried to dig deep and find what really bothers us during the holidays.
After being welcomed into Cathays Conservative Club with the offer of chocolates and party blowers the first event proceeded in front of a packed audience. A Cold Coming focussed on Carrie, a bar tender whose evening has been disturbed by the arrival of a corpse and a pizza. Before his death the deceased asked Carrie to find a priest to read his last rights. In an odd yet convincing mix between dark humour and high drama three very different priests arrive, but all are too late. The relationship between the three holy men, although perhaps a little clichéd, was very amusing as they argued and discussed the benefits of holding a zumba class in the church hall. Although the heart of this piece was a debate around religion and forgiveness it never became too heavy or self-important. This was definitely one of the strongest pieces of the evening and it perhaps would have been better at the end of the night to bring the audience together for an exciting and intriguing climax.
The audience were then split into three groups and I had the pleasure of being part of the Dirty Elves for the evening. We were taken to CF24 hairdressers where we met Sabrina and her staff as they closed up shop before their Christmas party and one member of staff isFoiled after being caught stealing. This piece relied a little too much on the ditzy blonde and outrageously camp hairdresser stereotypes but this wasn’t too much of a problem as there was a lot of humour and given such a short performance time it helped the audience to connect to the characters instantly. Unfortunately in theatre sometime lines are dropped and cues are missed but in this performance it happened a little too often to be completely forgiven, Dirty Protest like working to tight deadlines and perhaps this section could have benefitted from a little more rehearsal time.
Next up was a trip to Ambala Indian Restaurant, which somehow still managed to serve customers as the performance, Mistakes Have Been Made, took place. In this one man show, the audience became the employees listening to the smooth talking yet untrustworthy manager giving his Christmas speech. It soon becomes clear that all is not well with the company, the recession has hit but the employees are hitting harder. With wide spread disobedience and malicious prank playing going on throughout the company, the management are worried. This script was brilliantly witty with a strong undercurrent of violence that cumulated in two “employees” bundling the Boss into the toilets and giving him a bit of a beating. This was definitely the piece that worked best within the restrictions of the evening; the audience didn’t feel like invisible voyeurs in someone else’s space and the plot was small but perfectly formed.
Within the cosy and atmospheric setting of Milgi’s yurt there sat a sad and lonely santa, who wanted to reach out to the woman he loves before he literally disappears. Before I Go was a melancholy piece dealing again with the effects of the recession and in some ways talked about the restrictions we put on ourselves because we are worried about what society will think of us. This script was intriguing and I was really willing it to grab hold and not let go but it never quite reached its potential. I don’t know if it needed to be longer or just more developed but there was never a moment that I really felt empathy for the tragic character John. Having said that I do think it was well acted by Sion Pritchard and I really can’t put my finger on the missing link.
The last performance for my group took place in a bus stop on City Road. Inside, the slightly disturbed Mary is waiting for a bus. At first she seems like a bit of a social outcast, a bit different, one of those people who like to be on their own. Soon it becomes clear she is completely off her rocker as she plots The Demise of Photocopy Boy. Poor photocopy boy is going to pay the ultimate price for flirting with this black widow. This piece took us into the region of the surreal and although the plot was a little unbelievable as a real life situation, Hanna Jarman played the role of Mary so well that you could really imagine her dark side breaking through the socially awkward exterior.
Overall the night was enjoyable, but I felt there was something missing. Logistics were handled well considering the massive audience numbers and the need to move between five different venues. All the plays were daring but some didn’t quite hit the mark. In some ways the event felt like we were seeing five plays in the development or prototype stage rather than fully formed performances. Despite my criticism I do have to applaud Dirty Protest for their innovation, they really are bringing theatre to the masses with accessible plots and unconventional venues. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do next, what will they change and how will they grow? Keep your eyes open because I really think this company are going to hit Cardiff with something spectacular in the near future.
Review by Chelsey Gillard
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