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Annie Lowry Thomas: After Party

By | Published on Friday 10 September 2021

Camden People’s Theatre’s annual Sprint festival of new work returns this week, and there are loads of great shows to see.

A show that very much caught my eye, which you can see early on in the proceedings, is ‘After Party’, a play about parties, politics and nostalgia with an appropriate party music element.

To find out more about the show, I spoke to writer and performer Annie Lowry Thomas.

CM: Firstly, can you tell us what ‘After Party’ is all about? What story does it tell?
ALT: ‘After Party’ is an autobiographical performance about personal and political comedowns, growing up as a child of New Labour. It’s set at an after party, which has been going on for the last 25 years or so.

In it, I retell the story of the election party my parents had to celebrate New Labour’s victory in 1997, and go on to explore subsequent elections and moments of collective hope and loss that I, and I think a lot of my peers, have felt over the last thirty years.

I’m also asking the audience to help me create a “new” party, choosing our policies, our leader etc. It asks, how do we make a difference, or navigate our lives, when mainstream party politics can feel so hopeless or overwhelming? It’s funny, poignant and ultimately hopeful, or at least I hope it is.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
ALT: I’d say the main themes are probably parties and protests, or the lack of! It’s a show about coming down, growing up, nostalgia – or misplaced nostalgia – and ultimately hope.

CM: Obviously it’s about political stuff, but does it have a political agenda? Is there a political message?
ALT: I think it’s pretty obvious from the performance that I’m not a fan of the current Conservative government. But the performance doesn’t have a clear political agenda as such. I’m trying to explore why now, in 2021, we might feel nostalgic for the New Labour era, or a version of that era which perhaps never quite existed.

I’m also trying to explore the gap between what was promised by a New Labour government and what actually happened, and the generational fall out from that. I definitely don’t have any clear answers, but I do hope that I advocate for political engagement and collective responsibility, even if that is outside of current party politics.

CM: How would you describe it in terms of a style or genre?
ALT: ‘After Party’ is a contemporary, autobiographical performance, scored by a live DJ. I’m a big fan of, and directly influenced by, other contemporary theatre makers, like Sh!t Theatre and Gob Squad, who use live performance to navigate complex political issues in ways that feel accessible, and – really importantly – funny.

CM: Can you tell us more about those music elements? How do they affect the structure of the performance? How integral are they to the show?
ALT: I collaborated with artist, MC and DJ James Ogglethorpe, who created a live sound score to the performance. Music is integral, it’s the backdrop to all our party experiences.

James uses music to tap into the themes of – mainly misplaced – nostalgia, so he plays a lot of the electronic music that we’ve listened to at parties together, but also Britpop from the 90s that became politicised in its relationship to ‘Cool Britannia’ and New Labour, remixed to create different tones and responses.

Expect a lot of techno, Britpop and a really horrible Boris Johnson remix.

CM: Was this created pre or during the pandemic? Have recent events influenced the upcoming production?
ALT: Both! ‘After Party’ has been brewing for a while now… I actually first started writing and thinking about it in response to the 2017, and then 2019, elections, and the renewed engagement with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, particularly from young people.

Obviously that context has now changed, but it’s still an important part of the work. The pandemic has definitely shaped the current version of the performance; I think myself and a lot of people felt cut off from parties and politics over the last eighteen months. ‘After Party’ is me trying to reflect on and find those spaces again.

CM: Can we talk about you now? How did you come to be working in the arts?
ALT: Creative producer Conner Milliken, DJ James Oglethorpe and I all studied on the Theatre Studies course at Glasgow University and have worked together on different creative projects since.

Conner and I worked together at the much-missed arts and club venue The Arches in Glasgow, and both went on to do producing placements with the Federation Of Scottish Theatre. Our goal has always been to keep producing and creating our own performances, as well as collaborating with and promoting other artists.

CM: How has your work been affected by the recent lockdowns?
ALT: The lack of live performance opportunities in the past year has been completely understandable, but very depressing. We’ve missed collaborating, being in a room together, getting audience feedback, blowing off steam afterwards!

I wrote most of ‘After Party’ when we were in lockdown, our week residency to actually create the show was shifted several times over six months. It’s really hard to be creative in a vacuum and a global pandemic.

However, it did give us opportunities to discover other digital versions of the work, and collaborate with videographer Daniel Hughes, which was really exciting. We’re very much looking forward to having a live audience though!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
ALT: After the ‘After Party’… well after the Camden People’s Theatre performance, we’ll have another period of research and development, supported by Creative Scotland and Tramway, resulting in a digital sharing – of some kind – as part of Tramway TV. We’ll then be hoping to tour ‘After Party’ to small and mid-scale venues and festivals throughout the UK.

CM: And what are your aims and ambitions for the future?
ALT: Well, as I say, firstly more versions and performances of ‘After Party’. I think it’s a really responsive performance that has to be shaped by current politics, and can only grow in scale and reach. That opens up a lot of possibilities for future work. We’re also excited about collaborating with and producing other artists who share our themes or vision.

‘After Party’ is on as part of Sprint 2021 at Camden People’s Theatre, on 14 Sep. See this page here for info and to book.

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Photo: Jassy Earl