An apocalyptic party with dodgy cocktails but thankfully no rabbit vol-au-vents. This is party-planning overkill, with labryinths of classrooms teaching childish or frivolous arts and crafts alongside more sinister survival skills. This feels like being trapped in a Butlins holiday camp at the end of days, or a Freshers Week gone horribly wrong.
Sirens and explosions are the soundscape as people stroll or lurch around the corridors and stairwells. There is a sense of confusion and nervous curiosity that might be only partly what the creators intended. Later, as we are herded into the dimly lit basement, a more authentic sense of urgency is evoked. The band are playing in a disused storeroom where plastic wrapped corpses are stored and tiny bottles of water cost £2. Our leader takes to the stage to give a speech as we sit obediently on the grubby floor. He talks of many of our worst fears and nightmares. It was depressing and bleak; as a psychotherapist, I was seriously concerned for anyone emotionally vulnerable who was present.
Party Skills raises the question of what skills might we need to survive? Would we make that trap then kill and skin a rabbit? Would we revert to a child and make balloon animals, or turn up the volume and party? The event is cause for reflecting on what skills or knowledge we might actually need. Wandering around it was interesting to think what survival skills life has already given me.
I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years, yet I suddenly recall how to catch a fish and wring a chicken’s neck from growing up in the country. Coming from Northern Ireland I know to open the windows wide in a bomb scare, and clean up a village shop if that bomb explodes. I know how to make tea and sandwiches if a platoon of soldiers land a helicopter at the bottom of the garden. As a parent I can always entertain bored children or mend cut knees with the contents of my handbag. As a psychotherapist I know the things to say to lessen suicidal thoughts.
Part of the unfocused feel of Party Skills might be because it had been rapidly altered as a response to the Manchester Arena bombing. Perhaps the best testament we can give to those affected is to embrace our strengths and learn from all our past experiences. A celebration of our resilience in adversity is truly a cause for a party. (AD)
- Amanda Dunlop
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