Jacob’s Party returns to the Fringe Festival after a first mounting last year, and as someone who saw the production in 2016, this new rendition develops on an already sound foundation. A clearer narrative structure and more insight into his adventures as party host help create a more rounded show that is still a party at heart. Brown hopes his guests, the audience, will leave the night with a little more knowledge on what to do when hosting a party, and it is fair to say the show reminds the audience of a party’s purpose: to have a blast.
In its 2016 form, Jacob’s Party was primarily driven by the dance segments, whereas the 2017 edition comes with a better developed narrative. The clearer structure makes better use of Brown’s five ‘Rules for the Perfect Party’ as the narrative’s vehicle. Each segment broken apart by these rules dives into failed attempts Brown has had hosting parties, which led him to how he found each of the rules. Games also speckle through Jacob’s Party, including a game of musical chairs and a couple of extra-special treats further later in the show.
The stories Brown shares about his past party failures carry important self-revelations, which help shape his current self and future endeavours. The comedy hits at every angle, and many of the people he describes are people I know. For example, during his ‘house party phase’, Brown is interrupted by Shaun while dancing to Kylie Minogue because the bros listen to specific kinds of music before hitting the club and “not just any fag shit”. Granted, Kylie might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is adventures like these that pushed Brown’s younger self closer toward becoming his own person. Prevail and life lessons are common among these stories, and they feel more fleshed out in this year’s incarnation, but sometimes they are fleeting. It might have been nice to delve a little deeper into some of these moments to tease out the underlying themes – self-acceptance, individuality, and sexuality to name a few.
Brown makes creative use of props throughout the piece, in both his stories and dance sequences. During a retelling about his experiences with clubbing, Brown clothes himself in several “2-for-1 Hallensteins t-shirts” to symbolise each of his failed trials at fitting in with the crowd. The lighting perfectly mimics the vibe each story and dance number; technicolour for Kylie Minogue, angsty red for Fall Out Boy, and deep blues and purples for The Smiths. As for the music, the audience travels across so many different tunes, and Brown performs his heart out to each of them.
Brown is an incredibly energetic and loveable performer. The character’s aesthetic of anxiety is almost as charming as Brown himself, only adding to the show’s atmosphere. Each segment of the show includes a vigorous dance sequence that accompanies at least one song brought up through his memories. Brown’s enthusiasm and love for dancing the night away is what excites the audience; his charisma is contagious and helps the audience ease into dancing along with him. In these dance moments, the anxious character the audience is familiar with fades to make way for someone more confident, someone who is much more concerned with how epic and soulful his dance moves are than how to behave ‘properly’ at a party. The contrast is a highlight, and eventually, it is as the two personas learn something from one another.
While Jacob’s Party is primarily a party, it also reminds us to be ourselves and have a good time. It is a great way to close an evening, and I feel vastly more energised after viewing Brown’s performance than going into it. He has the audience laughing in stitches from start to finish, with his inventive one-liners and his all-too-real stories. While the season for Jacob’s Party is over, this is not the last Fringe will see of him, as Jacob’s After Party has a three-night season later in February. Check out the Fringe website for details.