You can see why Sikisa Bostwick-Barnes themed her show around parties – specifically, a house party she threw to celebrate the end of social distancing. With a party for a personality, the Londoner is all ebullience and bonhomie; a classic comedy MC, in fact. That’s not always the skill set you need to make a great solo show, but Sikisa (her stage name) has a good stab at it with this fringe debut, which uses the shindig conceit to introduce herself, and the things she cares about, to a receptive crowd.
Life of the Party starts in lockdown, with our host shuddering to recall her experiences partying on Zoom. She “came out of the pandemic wanting to celebrate life”, and is soon hosting (at someone else’s house) an in-person soiree with jerk chicken, rice and peas – and blue cheese for the white people. We’re teed up to expect a comedy of manners about guest etiquette, eating versus nibbling, and why Tupperware is the essential party accessory. But that’s not quite what Sikisa delivers, instead using a handful of the guests present (the annoying vegan; the needling friend) to segue into set pieces on immigration (Bostwick-Barnes also works as an immigration lawyer), race and dating.
You can see the joins as Sikisa solders together these two shows: the party one, and the more traditional debut in which she accounts for who she is and where she has come from. The pugnacious “this is me” speech that closes the show feels tangential to the theme. And occasionally, her effervescence struggles to conceal undercooked or slight material, such as the audience-interactive bit on that hoary standup topic, the Life in the UK test (for people seeking residency or naturalisation), or the first-base routine about doing “number twos” in other people’s houses.
But the show, punctuated with dance breaks, still entertains. Its best material succeeds in combining Sikisa’s front-foot swagger (men, she says, find her intimidating) with nuance – such as the routine responding to her friend’s “Oreo” accusation, or the section on her ambivalent relationship with her mum. Not quite hostess with the mostest, then, but certainly plenty to offer.