THE AFTER AFTER PARTY
After Party Theatre Society, Vancity Culture Lab, until March 17th
Photo: Helenka Boden
My Two Pence
By Penny Warwick
At the Fringe there are two types of great shows: great fringe shows and great shows. The difference is great Fringe shows live and thrive in the Fringe, it is like they are intrinsically bound to the quirky, unpredictability of quality where they end up skyscrapers of acclaim, whereas great shows are, well, great shows. The After After Party is a great Fringe show.
I had really high expectations for the After After Party, two female writer-performers with a solid Cultchivating the Fringe award under their belt from their sell-out 2016 run? Yes please. Where is my ticket?
So let’s get into this. Katey Hoffman is clearly a solid comic physical actress with great timing, Cheyenne Mabberley was a great, grounding force as Jules - the “straight man” to Hoffman’s ambitiously left-field Fiona.
It’s curious to me because I truly feel like the material wasn’t as strong as the performers - confusing because they also wrote it. However, it was also dramaturged/directed by a third creator, Kayvon Khoshkam, so it’s hard to decipher who here has made the great calls and who has stifled the show from the wonderful potential. What a rich source point to have our adolescent drunken foibles exposed and celebrated! Alas, it often misses the mark.
My favourite moments were the drug-induced absurdist hallucination moment (including a bunny with oversized lollipops and later a fun) was truly well done. The GLOW-inspired women wrestling throwdown was a welcome escape with well choreographed and executed “moves”.
Ultimately, this is a *really* clever premise, so much good source material and opportunity. However, somehow the really intelligent jokes get completely overwhelmed by poop-and-pee jokes (and other “gross-out-humour”) - which for me is just not my thing at all. It was a shame because the clever things were really witty, but were too few and far between. Some jokes I think that were intended to be dark were instead off-mark and there were also a lot of references which as a Brit I just didn’t get, or I think I didn’t get.
Perhaps ultimately I felt some affinity to Jules and Fiona, in that I felt like I had arrived at a party where I was trying to fit in, but ultimately I was uninvited, underprepared and not hip enough to get the “cool girls” jokes, and it showed.
My Two Cents
By Lillian Jasper
The After After Party is an absurdist comedy trapped in the confines of a teen gross-out flick. I think it wants to be both but it doesn’t really succeed as either.
Jules and Fiona are two extremely drunk high-schoolers, sitting on a park bench in the middle of the night, covered in vomit (Jules) and soot (Fiona), with no memory of how they got there. Through excessive usage of Ritalin and Fireball, the girls recount the preceding hours of sordid shenanigans.
Both of the actors have considerable chops. Cheyenne Mabberley and Katey Hoffman (both of whom also wrote the play) are terrific and committed as their ridiculous characters. Jules and Fiona’s bond feels genuine, which helps hold the show together. Mabberley as Jules, a self-professed “slutty bitch”, is the more level-headed of the two. Hoffman’s Fiona is completely insane, which is mostly played for laughs despite the ever-increasingly dark implications. The final revelations of the night’s events suggest that she should probably at the very least be in therapy (which Jules suggests more than once), if not under strict psychiatric care.
There are fun moments, and Kayvon Koshkam’s sound design is used to great effect. However, the humour of The After After Party is dark, and some of the jokes simply didn’t work. The feminist movement (occasionally referenced in the show) has gained so much momentum of late that much of the tone felt a bit stale and dated - though this show only premiered a year and a half ago. Personally I don’t feel like Bill Cosby jokes land anymore, and there’s a reason for that.
The opening night audience seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely - laughs were constant throughout the 75-minute runtime. It won the “Cultchivating The Fringe” award at the 2016 Vancouver International Fringe Festival. Several performances are already sold out. I’m afraid I just didn’t get it, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I’m all for stories of female empowerment and the exploration of flawed female characters, but this didn't feel empowering. Perhaps that was the point. It may be due to my sheltered upbringing that Jules and Fiona seemed too extreme to me to be believable. I don’t know how I was supposed to feel about them. Disgusted? Sympathetic? Amused? All of the above? If I’d had a few drinks beforehand I might be less inclined to overthink it.
I’m happy for Mabberley and Hoffman that they’ve had such great success re-purposing their adolescence and creating comedic characters that appeal to so many folks - I’m just not one of them. Maybe you will be.