Made In China in collaboration with performers
Made In China
Watching Gym Party is rather like becoming the audience of a children's game show, but despite the saccharine smiles, neon signs and matching wigs the show has more than a hint of The Hunger Games. The show is a very in-your-face satire on winning, success and fame, the performers are relentless, in their efforts to beat the other contestants and gain the audience's love.
Despite the garishness of the set-up with "Chris", "Jess" and "Jen", the names of the three contestants / performers (Christopher Brett Bailey, Jessica Latowicki and Jenna Watt), lit up on the back wall, there is a real honesty to the performance. The performers talk of their favourite and least favourite parts of the show. When they compete against each other it feels anything but staged. It is also anything but a children's show, with plenty of depth and some very clever writing.
The degree of audience interaction from the speaking to individuals in the crowd to the audience having to vote on personal issues about the contestants is perfectly pitched. This and the different game options allow for the show to change quite considerably each night, something will no doubt prove popular with the Fringe crowd.
Like contestants on reality television, a key element of winning is letting the audience in on your own life, i.e. the sob story, and this allows some entertaining and contemplative breaks from the fast-paced games.
The title of the piece refers to Chris's side story which involves an early experience of rejection and being let down at a school party. The story plays out slowly in short segments, building up over the show and Bailey delivers a great finish to his story.
On the first night Jen won the the first round with her impish physicality, Chris won the second audience round by getting the audience's trust and perhaps sympathy too. In a great twist which would be very hard to have choreographed, Jess won overall as the third round had the most points. Jess had done a great job of winning over the audience, a really confident performance.
The only problem with the show is it could do with more space for the games and also a little more time, as it felt slightly rushed. You want the audience interaction to go a little further, as the cast really have the audience in their hands by the end.
Also the show has cheated in its "brand new" desciption, as arguably it has been premièred before at a few other festivals, however in their defence lots of other Edinburgh shows do this under the work-in-progress banner. Sometimes you have to play dirty to win.
Reviewer: Seth Ewin