18 January 2018
Different Party, a play by Wakenshaw and Duncan
The Soho Theatre
reviewed by Adam McCormack
Star rating: ****
Different Party is about as anarchic and surreal as comic mime can get, stretching riffs on visual puns as far as they can go. That office life is mundane is not to be doubted, but in the hands and Wakenshaw and Duncan efforts to relive boredom become journeys of hilarious, and at times touching, discovery.
Grareth Krubb played by Trygve Wakenshaw (Grareth is a combination of Graham and Gareth) and Dennis Chang (Barnie Duncan) are the sole occupiers of the sales office of Ruck’s Leather Interiors – if you are not sure what a leather interior is they suggest you “imagine a room covered in skin”. From the outset we realise that they are not the most talented salesmen – with each seemingly wearing half of the others suit. There is not a single task in the office that does not develop into something we couldn’t possibly expect, whether it is a simple trip to the coffee machine, or general paperwork. Arrival at the office has their briefcases behaving like dogs, while later they become helium filled balloons that they struggle to contain. Some puns are more obvious initially (trying to get on top of paperwork or being buried beneath it) but they soon take on a much more absurd bent. Paper-folding to demonstrate the line that they need to get across develops into what seems like random frenetic tearing, yet ultimately becomes at first hearts, and then beaks, that turn them into chickens. An illicit cigarette break uses a biscuit as a cigarette, with chewing substituting for inhaling, and as for exhaling, well you can probably guess. When finally they receive an order they profess not to have pens and nothing firm to write upon (the stage is strewn with such material), which ultimately leads to Chang carving the order into Krubb’s exposed back.
If this all sounds very silly then it is, but it is also genuinely funny, with much humour generated by Wakenshaw’s pratfalls. He has a mastery of comedic expression and contorts his angular frame to great effect throughout. Chang’s performance is equally compelling and demonstrates a level of comic timing without which Different Party would not work. The duo hale from New Zealand and this production – part of the London International Mime Festival – arrives following great success at the Edinburgh Fringe. Running at just 55 minutes it is a great start to an evening – just don’t get in the way of those biscuit cigarettes when they exhale.