House Party | Minerva Theatre Chichester | Review

House Party

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

until 1st June 2024

A co-production with Headlong in association with Frantic Assembly

At the Minerva Theatre in Chichester, a house party is taking place. Hosted by unruly, mixed-up teen Julie on her 18th birthday, the party has all the signs of a wild and unpredictable night.

Based on August Strindberg‘s century old Swedish classic Miss Julie, the story has been adapted and modernised extraordinarily well by Laura Lomas. The central themes of class and privilege are explored and dissected in a way that is completely relatable to teenage life today.

House Party is essentially a three hander with the ensemble and some of the audience playing ‘extras’. The three actors are truly impeccable and carry the show faultlessly keeping the audience enraptured as the plot moves within an hour and a half from excitably ditzy to unhinged insanity.

Nadia Parkes plays Julie, who on the surface is wealthy, beautiful and privileged but you don’t have to scratch to hard to find her insecurities, she has an overwhelming hatred for her father, harbours guilt over the death of her mother and is paying the price for dubious footage of her that went viral. Nadia Parkes is perfect in this role, and her descent into instabilty was superbly executed.

Julie’s vulnerabilities make her cling uncontrollably to the only true friend that has stuck by her, Christine who is played by Rachelle Diedericks. In the original play, Christine is a minor character but in House Party she is a pivotal central character and the one who we feel the most empathy for. Christine is a loyal friend but struggles with the control and influence Julie has over her as she strives to make her own life choices. Rachelle Diedericks rises superbly to the challenge as she navigates through the complexities of the character.

The third character in the trio is Christine’s boyfriend Jon played by Josh Finan. Finan encapsulates teenage boys beautifully, (as a parent of boys, I am qualified to say this), the awkwardness, the hormones, the confusion are clear to see. A marvellous piece of acting.

The house party offers alternative viewing options. The audience seating area of the Minerva Theatre offers perfect sightlines and comfortable seating, however there is also the option to try the ‘immersive experience’ and sit onstage with the actors giving an up close and personal view and a great ‘reveal’ moment but little else. Unfortunately, despite sitting rigidly still throughout, in poignant scenes the ‘extras’ were uncomfortably distracting as they shared space with the actors.

The first act is an hour and half long and honestly, it is some of the most powerful theatre I have seen, particularly driven by such a young and capable cast, as the act ends you can hear a pin drop and the audience is rendered speechless. After the interval there is an unnecessary second short act which serves as an epilogue. Although it explains the previous events, I would have preferred to have continued to speculate and been left with that ‘wow’ feeling that the first act brought.

In a time when teenage mental health is teetering, this is superb storytelling form director Holly Race Roughan. The main characters all very different and likeable, but struggling to find their way in the world, like all teenagers and young adults today. House Party is insightful and thought provoking.

Best thing I have seen this year so far!

Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill

Photo: Ellie Kurtz