“In 2006 Rosie Kay, one of our more enterprising young choreographers, hit a bull’s-eye on the Edinburgh Fringe with a rousing, raucous dance-theatre interpretation of Joseph Mancure March’s cultish, jazz-age narrative poem The Wild Party. This sweaty, sexy little show merits attention, not least because of Kay’s sheer determination to keep it alive.
Kay’s source material is a sharp slice of gin-soaked text, florid yet economical, and centred on a debauched evening that culminates in violence.
Another, more immediate, layer of the work is the framing device used by Kay, the director. The “backstage” tensions between her and her fellow cast members, plus a live jazz trio, are meant to parallel the desire and discord in the script. The postmodern blurring of identities is often clever. Its biggest pay-off is the faux interval, during which you might want to stay put in your seat.
Although not trained as actors, the performers sink their teeth into their roles. With their brawling energy and broad, sardonic deliveries, they sometimes bite down to the funny bone. Body language and movement, however, outstrip spoken text. Kay’s choreography is a strenuously sensual marriage of polished recklessness splattered with lascivious amusements. The dancers push, pull, swing, fling and, at the climax, flail through the mechanics of savage sex. As a bonus, all of it is set to the musicians’ percolating rhythms.”
“The Wild Party lives up to its title, with four characters who are hell-bent on having a good time. Rosie Kay, as lead performer and choreographer, possesses a pitiless eye for the body language of the inebriated, and, in this 75-minute bash, perfectly captures the gaudily self-conscious gestures of the wasted, their slippage between painful deliberation and shambolic blur. With her dramaturg, Ben Payne, Kay has shaped the material into a clever storyline, based on the 1929 poem by Joseph Mancure March, but interleaving scenes from March’s decadent jazz age with those from contemporary alcopop culture.
Through a mixture of dance, live music and text, Kay and her engaging cast tell the story of vaudeville dancer Queenie, whose alcohol-fuddled search for love comes to an inevitably bad and bloody end. It is Queenie’s fate that holds up a mirror to her 21st-century counterparts, as they too stumble towards self-destruction. Kay has found a deft way of looking at today’s binge culture without being didactic.
…The exception is a duet in which Queenie has sex with her lover. Their lonely, piston-pump interaction raises the language to a metaphorical incisiveness. Kay’s is a sparky talent”
The Guardian Judith Mackrell