From the moment you enter the Product Solutions headquarters, the Office Party cast have won half the battle. Because inside, harnessed in the paltry initial set of balloons and breeze block, is that awkward early-hours-of-the-party atmosphere that propels you and your "colleagues" to the bar for the wine that often aids – nay, perhaps ensures – an excellent night out.
The characters are (it must be said) disappointingly clichéd, but incredibly well acted by the ensemble, who manage to fully immerse you in 360 degrees of corporate carnage. You walk the tightrope throughout between getting sucked into the playground allegiances - the role you are chosen to play from the second you claim your name badge - and distantly disdaining the entire proceedings. Essentially the way most people feel each Christmas whilst desperately clutching their cabernet.
It isn’t subtle, but it sure is effective. Most will recognise former acquaintances among the cast of managers and, as the night wears on from awkward realism to excruciatingly awkward surrealism, there are flashes of brilliance amongst the terrifyingly familiar. Christopher Green and Ursula Martinez as the ‘corporate entertainment’ (including one brilliant turn as a motivational speaker for Christopher Green), Janice Connolly as head of Domestic Services and Rosalind Adler as head of CSR particularly stand out through the alcohol fumes.
There is little by way of plot arc and in order to provide a truly immersive experience, the main happenings of the evening are often contrived interactions between cast and audience, leaving little room for more interesting developments between the characters themselves. But not until there is a little distance between yourself and the theatre is there headspace enough to realise this – a testimony to just how deep into the moment it is possible to be pulled by the excellent cast.
At the end of the night the question remains: does Office Party simply rely on the great clichés of the event, or is it merely laying said clichés out as fact, reflecting the reality – to a point – of corporate culture letting its hair down? I’d suggest not missing out on the chance to decide for yourself.