Surprise involves a confused storyline that seems to touch upon various themes from class dynamics to existential crises faced by mid-twenty university graduates who are now living in the ‘real world’. While the acting at parts was quite good, and a few of the jokes did produce a chuckle, the plot was generally haphazard and usually only mildly funny.
A surprise party is held for Paul who a few years after university has reached the ripe old age of 26 and therefore has become ‘nearer thirty than twenty’(Shock horror). Neither he nor most of his white middle-class friends (also in their mid-twenties) seem to be in the mood for celebration, occupied as they are with various personal problems. One friend is distraught about her recent break-up with a long-term boyfriend, and another two are bitterly quarrelling in what looks like a marriage on the verge of collapse. Guy, the protagonist, if there is one in this story, is different and doesn’t fit in with Paul’s other friends. He isn’t part of the professional class.
He is awkwardly dressed, wearing a badly-tied tie and shirt, and donning a track-suit and a pair of canvas shoes. He does not observe supposed English middle-class etiquette, such as not looking through books on the host’s shelf or making a clutter in the living room, which is a constant cause of distress to the host. Unlike the other characters in the play, Guy does not have a university degree; he is unemployed and spends much of his time smoking weed, though he is seemingly the most interesting and the most intelligent character in the play.
During the party, Guy manipulates others emotionally, spikes their drinks, and causes the psychedelic madness, the basis of much of the play’s questionably humourous plot development and unnecessarily tragic ending. Guy’s motives are unclear. The description of the play in the programme reads: “he wants revenge on the moneyed classes for their years of condescension.” This is rather unpersuasive and was not supported sufficiently by the play’s action or dialogue.
What exactly the play tries to explore remains a mystery. Is it the discontentment of the ‘moneyed’ university graduates in comparison with the contentment of an unemployed druggy? Or is it a polemic on the class system?I will probably never know. The only coherent message that the play appears to convey is a facetious and somewhat disturbing one, which I am going to presume is conveyed unintentionally: be wary of the unemployed and the unkempt – they might spike your drink.