Gym Party, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Made In China
Made In China, Christopher Brett Bailey & Ira Brand (writers, directors)
Christopher Brett Bailey, Jessica Latowicki & Ira Brand
Running time

This party at the gym turned out to be no picnic. For one thing, the fighting started early – and for another, it didn’t stop. This was survival of the fittest, a competition with no prize and no purpose – a bit like life really.

The competitors' names were up in lights above the stage. And when Chris, Jess and Ira jogged on, dressed for business in singlets, shorts and running shoes, you could tell who was who because their garish, bobbed wigs matched the colour of their neon names.

It was fun at first. Round One was a riot of adult party games, an assortment of competitive eating, dizzy dancing and catching sweets thrown at them by the audience by whatever means possible - in the mouth and down the shorts, to name but two.

The second round got a bit awkward – but you expect a bit of awkwardness at parties. At this stage, the audience got to do what audiences these days seem to enjoy most – vote for their favourite. Beginning by raising hands for the most attractive and the best kisser, it ended with a vote for which one you would save from certain death.

In between rounds, the winner would bask in the glory while the other two paid a penance. With the punishments escalating from self-flagellation to coruscating personal attacks, by the end of the final round the two losers were literally trying to kill each other.

What all this emphasised was the pointless cruelty of the social Darwinism that we in the ‘civilised’ world have blithely accepted as normal, inevitable even: is it not just human nature for the strong to thrive at the expense of the weak? No longer forced to compete for basic resources, we compete for ‘the best’ and to be ‘the best’: we want the best house, the best-looking mate, to have the best body or the least-lined face.

This attitude underpins the chain of greed that led to the current recession. But the ‘I’ll get mine, screw the next guy’ stance requires a world of complicity to work. What this performance highlighted was just how implicated we all are in creating our cultural and political environment. The audience were part of the construction of this show, and so part of the problem, from the beginning. By the time you realised what you were into, it was too late to get out.

Devised with skill and performed with total commitment, this was an S&M experience that delivered an uncomfortably deserved slap around the face that thrilled while it smarted.

Show times: 4 & 5 March, 2014