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Party Skills for the End of the World review at Centenary Building, Salford – ‘a dissonant, interactive experience’

Part Skills for the End of the World at Manchester International Festival. Photo: Donald Christie Part Skills for the End of the World at Manchester International Festival. Photo: Donald Christie

Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari’s Party Skills at the End of the World asks what will be left when the world ends. What skills will be required to survive?

The show’s mission is to equip us with these skills. These might be physical: combat or knife-throwing; or they might be crafts, like say, napkin-folding.

We are led through an abandoned building, formerly part of the University of Salford. The rooms, as designed by Abigail Conway and Bethany Wells, are in states of increasing decay.

It’s impossible to visit every lesson before we are ushered through dark corridors towards the show’s finale. The time allowed for exploration feels much too brief. I visit four stations before my time is up, on two of the three floors open to us.

There is a dissonance, too, between the two formal conceits of the piece: between the sense of post-apocalyptic decay and the cocktail party atmosphere. This is never fully resolved. It is as if there are two experiences at work, pulling against each other as the piece leaps between moments of exploratory interaction and the more sober performance sections.

The actors, however, impart a unifying force upon the evening. The human element they provide is the strongest glue in the mix. But given that the buildings surrounding the venue are being torn down to make way for the rapidly-expanding new, the piece’s dissonance in some way expresses the contradictions inherent in the relationship between Manchester International Festival and its home city.

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A dissonant, fragmented interactive journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape