The Prima Party Scrapbook

Sun 4th – Sun 18th August 2013

reviews

Flo Layer

at 09:53 on 11th Aug 2013

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Before I could even take a seat and whip out the reviewing pen, glow sticks were thrust into my hands and I was forcefully instructed that I could have two, and only two, blows on the bottle of bubbles before the show really began. Welcome to the glitzy, make-shift, chaotic set of ‘Prima Party Scrapbook’, a one man show performed by Matthew Squance. It certainly lives up to its ‘scrapbook’ title; fragments, sketches, songs, dictionary extracts, costume changes, screaming and swearing, are all patched together in an inextricable whirl of a sad, sometimes funny, mostly disturbing, personal recollections of a party.

Our host was a flamboyant, spandex-legging, tight t-shirt, pink and faded denim-jacket-wearing party-goer, whose excessive black eye make-up and bed hair made you think of Tim Minchin’s eccentricities. Yet here, unfortunately, is where the similarities end. The ‘musical’ interludes were painfully delivered and there was a definite lack of comic ingenuity in the lyrics. In a confessional song to ‘Mum’ (an audience member wearing a purple wig), Squance light-heartedly sings that he’s “a f*ck up and a loser” while in a bitter song to his ex-girlfriend he screams “c*nt” at the audience at the end, which, considering that there was only our intimate group of six huddled together at the front, was excessively overwhelming and unnecessary.

Although Squance performed with confidence and conviction through the drug-tripping scenes and socially awkward party greetings, I always felt confused as to whether I should be laughing or crying. The agonising knot in my stomach tightened as he pushed surrealism a bit too far and started to act out masturbation on stage with a balloon and a rubber glove. We were exposed and horribly forced to contribute (dancing with our glowsticks to ‘What a Feeling’ from Flashdance was horrendous and, no, I don’t particularly want to stroke you) to a personal experience that was basically, just a bit too distastefully personal.

I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience at all, and I think I laughed more out of nerves than anything else – but maybe that wasn’t the point. On the surface, this takes the form of your usual one-man comedy sketch, a group of anecdotes cleverly linking together into one narrative at the end, but then there’s a darker side – drug abuse, a broken heart, hints of a disturbing childhood. Ultimately, the guilty confession and self-deprecation of this piece left me feeling completely emptied. The ‘Prima Party Scrapbook’ was a horrible and uncomfortable experience, but if that’s what Squance was aiming for, he succeeded.

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Theodora Hawlin

at 10:37 on 11th Aug 2013

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Scrapbooking is an art in which the confused and jumbled become treasured. Scrap, when alone, remains useless. But, when collected and bound, scrap become all you need to encompass treasured memories, and it’s this eclectic approach that Matthew Squance takes for his one man show. His life becomes a scrapbook.

Walking into Sweet Grassmarket we are met by bubbles and a pair of black eyes, make-up that instantly aligns Squance with the confidence of a deformed Jack Sparrow or the rarity of an exotic Panda. Highly charged, his pizzazz and confidence in front of an intimate six strong audience is truly admirable: a blow of bubbles, a touch of glitter, add a little Bjork and we’re off.

Awkward mum-dancing, gifted glow sticks quivering, we’re brought in and out of songs, anecdotes, dreams, fantasies, film recommendations. This is story-telling at its most bizarre, but also at its finest. Despite his extensive prop collection, all Squance really needs is his voice and multiple ears to appreciate it: from the moment he opens his mouth we’re hooked, at times I’m not sure by horror or awe. Just like the illicit substances discussed in his tales, I find myself addicted to Squance’s weird but wonderful delivery, I’m constantly wondering where we’ll go next, and continually surprised by the answers; it’s schizophrenic but worth the ride.

He takes us from hysterical to harrowing in the blink of an eye, from raunchy mock-burlesque to the sombre remembrances of lost love. Despite Squance professing a desire to avoid a show that sets out to talk about relevant social ‘issues’ the show can hardly help itself. It’s a Bildungsroman, following Squance on the bumpy road of life and love. His anger at lost love reaches a climax in a sequence of piercing statements, each of which is punctured by a balloon burst, physically tearing apart the care-free comical facade that Squance sets out with. It’s not always coherent, but the sporadic nature is part of the performances charm, creating themes without even realising it. Despite his comical outbursts: ‘It’s my turn to talk now’, ‘shhh’, Squance truly sets up a conversation with his audience, they play a crucial part, their enthusiasm is essential for completing Squance’s surreal scenarios.

By the end Squance strips himself bare in front of the audience, both figuratively and literally. This show, however comical it first appears, takes an unexpectedly moving turn - a muddled mess of memories that come together for Squance to entertain and, despite his initial protestations, also to teach. Whatever it is, this show is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

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