It’s the roaring 20s again and Queenie wants to hold a party to end all parties, one where she can get loose and wild and show off just how she likes. Little Triangle’s latest production is a truly wild party full of debauchery, danger, and, most importantly, dancing.
The cast is a motley crew of line dancers, Vaudeville and Broadway performers, a boxer, a little sister, up-and-coming producers, and some unsavoury characters. All have arrived for Queenie (Georgina Walker) and Burrs’s (Matthew Hyde) party, where they look forward to crossing boundaries, trading partners, and getting a little bit wild. With such a large crowd, everyone gets their chance in the spotlight. Rotating through backstories and dastardly plans, the first half of the production works hard to create an atmosphere of freedom and ambition mixed into a heady cocktail. It speaks to the excellent judgement of Little Triangle that they are able to gather such a competent and compelling ensemble to carry these characters and this era smoothly.
Alexander Andrews’s design is intoxicating with its dark, smokey corners and bright sequin dresses. It balances the loss of control when your heart is racing but your body is slow, languid. A large steel-posted bed to the left of stage is sexy and inviting at the same time as it threatens the mundanity of violence and fear. This is counter-levered with the band behind a piano on the right, the source of stimulus for the party and the production, as well as the tool so many of these performer characters use to mask what’s really going on.
The chorines (Sophie Perkins, Matilda Moran, Jordan Warren, Victoria Luxton, and Rosalie Neumair) flutter around Queenie like doves, ready to fulfil her errands and create timely distractions with the twist of a wrist. Their exuberance in every dance number was palpable and added an over-abundance of energy that was thrilling to watch. Choreographer Madison Lee was expert in weaving their dance numbers throughout the narrative and using their flashy limbs to ease or build tension as necessary. While forming the backdrop for many scenes and songs, the chorines frequently steal the limelight with their perfect timing and the enchanting subtlety of their character performances as both invested and removed from the core action of the story.
Walker as the central figure of Queenie is sharp and cold, powerful but only so far as her smile will stretch. Appearing as frothy and insubstantial as champagne foam to beginning with, her character arc is breathtaking in its tragedy. The clarity of her pain in the final moments is painfully conveyed by Walker who seems to literally shrink as her character’s vulnerability grows.
After Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 remake of the Great Gatsby, it seemed the imagery of the Roaring 20s with flapper dresses and feathers would never end. The thousands of themed parties to follow worked hard to run the era past cliche and straight into the ground until the mere mention of prohibition reeked of repetition and derivative pop culture. The Wild Party takes the symbolism and imagery of the 1920s and finds something new and exciting in them again. Queenie’s story, with Andrews’s direction, is centred around a real sense of fear and desperation that enlivens the excess of this era with a genuine human narrative.
The atmosphere of this production is rapidly building and shifting in tension and risk, pulling the audience deep into this space and time. The Wild Party starts as shiny, empty, and expensive, but evolves into an unexpectedly valuable story of loss.
The Wild Party is running at the Seymour Centre from November 16th – 24th.