People who have been following this blog (or clicking on random links on Twitter and/or Facebook) probably know that I’m Online Editor for The Stage, that I work in the digital team, and have a project management role as well as my editorial and critical one.
Except I’m not. I actually work in marketing for a company called Product Solutions. And last night was our annual office party. As these type of events tend to be, it was a lot of fun, with a few surprises, some bad behaviour from people who’d had a little too much to drink, and old rivalries between the company’s divisions rose to the surface once more.
Of course, the above paragraph is a fiction — as is The Office Party, a revival of an immersive theatre night created by Christopher Green and Ursula Martinez (with original director Cal McCrystal) which originally played at the Barbican and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
While it’s technically in Islington’s Pleasance Theatre, the evening starts in the building next door (which, I understand from a member of the creative team who ‘broke cover’ last night, will become the Pleasance’s new rehearsal space). Upon entering, you will be given your name badge and assigned to a department. I was placed in Marketing, and I don’t think the poor woman on the desk was quite prepared for the vehemence of my “Oh, God, no!”
Moving into an area that has been set up as an office where some space has been cleared for a get-togther, there’s a chance to mingle with your
fellow audience members before each department head takes their group through to the party area proper.
And what an area it is – completely unrecognisable as the Pleasance’s main space. The theatre seating is completely absent, replaced by a dance floor in an area decorated with lots of black and leopard print, and a bar has been installed down one side. A stage area is used by a selection of guest artists – including possibly the world’s worst corporate motivational speaker – while a second, smaller, stage is used for some of the company’s department heads to do a turn, as well as playing host to a few interdepartmental party games.
If, like me, you’ve never really taken part in a piece of theatre such as this, it takes a little getting used to. But once you’ve got into the swing of accepting that you’re joining some actors in playing a role (a task made easier, I have to say, by our head of marketing pouring us all brandy shots at the start of the evening) it’s tremendous fun. The party game aspect – passing balloons along the team without using the hands, or eating cream cakes with both hands behind one’s back, for example – aren’t to my taste, but they contribute to the mood in which events unfold. Each department head is a member of the cast, interacting with each other at various points to progress the story as well as playing host and ensuring the new members of the ‘department’ are having a good time.
There are some genuine surprises along the way, too. To say more would include far too many spoilers, but it pays to keep an eye out throughout the evening for little clues. Even then, there are at least two events that, unless you know what’s going to happen, produced genuine gasps of appreciation from the entire audience.
I’d suggest that if you are going to attend The Office Party, you go in a group, go with the flow – and don’t look down your nose at being in Marketing (possibly the only time I will ever say such a thing).
Oh, and go with plenty of cash – due to the economic downturn, Product Solutions’ traditional subsidised bar has been replaced by one that charges. So a night out will probably work out more expensive than if you were sitting down and watching a play for a couple of hours – but you’ll have a fun time that is at once horribly familiar, but also tremendous fun.