An awkward holiday connection

Couple hooks up at The After Party

While many people enjoy the holidays as a social time to connect with friends and family those who find it lonely may make connections of an entirely different kind.

It’s the people in the latter category that take centre stage in Lunchbox Theatre’s current première Neil Fleming’s The After Party .

“It’s about two lonely people — the cleaning lady Sherry (Trishia Woodley) and the IT guy Kevin (Scott McAdam) — who come together at Christmas” says director Aaron Coates.

And they come together in a “spectacularly awkward” fashion.

“Neil writes an amazing romantic comedy. He’s got such a great sense of the hysterical and the touching that makes following a couple come together exciting” says Coates.

The After Party follows on the heels of last season’s He Said She Said which Fleming and Glenda Stirling co-wrote for Lunchbox Theatre. Previous to that Fleming penned another holiday-themed play called Last Christmas which premièred at Lunchbox in 2011.

For people who may greet the notion of a “Christmas play” with a wrinkled nose and a frown Coates argues that not all holiday plays are the same. “They’re a whole bunch of different kinds of things. The After Party is a very unlikely Christmas play” he says.

The action takes place among the “detritus of an office Christmas party” late on Christmas Eve. “It’s a gigantic mess. It’s the unlikeliest place to have anything romantic happen” says Coates.

Kevin and Sherry are in the office post-party — he’s there to do some IT updates she’s there to clean up. Neither has anywhere else to be or anyone else to be with anyway. They strike up an awkward conversation that Coates says “is really difficult for them and consequently so funny for us.”

“It’s not all glitzy and happy. It’s about trying to find connection” he adds. “Ultimately for me it’s about risk taking and the risks we take for love.”

Coates says the seasonal setting is crucial to The After Party because the holidays bring the characters’ loneliness into even greater relief. “Christmas is the ultimate time when the world tells you you should be with other people.”

He adds it’s no accident that Fleming chose an IT guy and a cleaning lady as his central characters — jobs that society associates with a number of stereotypes.

“There’s more to everybody than we think. Especially at Christmas we become more aware of other people as the season is about the people we share it with” he says. “Kevin and Sherry discover there’s a lot more to each other than they initially thought.”

On one hand says Coates The After Party provides “a great escape” into the “fun little world” of the office where Kevin and Sherry work. On the other hand he adds audiences will be able to relate on a very real level to the setting.

“It could be any office anywhere. A lot of people will recognize it because a lot of people go to work in offices and attend office parties.”

As The After Party is a Fleming play expect some “bizarre” twists and turns Coates warns including a “spectacularly exciting scene with karaoke.”

And for those who are fans of great Christmas literature keep your eyes peeled for a “little allusion to a Christmas classic.”