After the Party

Robyn Malcolm delivers a tour de force performance in a blistering new drama that provokes and challenges what you think you saw.

There’s a scene at the end of episode one of After the Party that will provoke you and leave you questioning what you have seen.

It’s the intent of the producers to do just that, because the incident splinters the family of Penny (Robyn Malcolm), Phil (Peter Mullan) and daughter Grace (Tara Canton). It reverberates for years to come in the New Zealand community where Penny lives and works, yet for her there is no turning back.

The 6 part series, co-created by Malcolm and writer Dianne Taylor takes place over two time periods, being present and past.

When we meet Penny she is a high school teacher at a boy’s school who takes none of the backchat and miscreant behaviour endemic amongst adolescent teens. She cycles to work through the streets of Wellington and enjoys her free time as a loving grandmother to Grace’s three year old son. But there is history….

Ex-husband Phil (Mullan) lands back in the city to spend time with Grace and his grandson, which is a rude shock to Penny. While Grace wants her mother to move on, there are also those in the school community who do not support Penny’s stance, with one colleague even accusing her of spreading “false accusations (which) completely destroying innocent mens’ lives.” Ouch.

Penny cops none of that shit. She is staunch in her hatred of her ex-husband to the point of being incapable of being in the same room.

Through flashback scenes we will soon learn why, with an incident at an unassuming house party completely imploding the family dynamic some years earlier.

Meanwhile Penny is also part of a grass-roots environmental campaign against a local fishing operator, and directs her personal fury into graffiti, an act admire by colleague Simon (Dean O’Gorman). There is also time spent caring for her ageing mother (Catherine Wilkin).

All these character threads weave together to create a rich, dimensional character in Penny, who is stubborn, hot-tempered, loyal and flawed. She teaches with tough love but is also a born troublemaker. You’re cheering for her while worried sick about the ramifications of her actions.

In Robyn Malcolm Penny is a firebrand central character who performs with searing conviction, superbly matched by Peter Mullan who goes toe-to-toe in rivetting feuds. You could watch it for this alone and be satisfied.

It’s no wonder she won a top acting award from Series Mania in France for this role. Penny is up there with Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood (Happy Valley) and Suranne Jones’ Gemma Foster (Doctor Foster) as tour de force performances of recent years.

After the Party also reminds me of The Slap in part -an inciting incident which divides social opinion and the subsequent fallout as drama. Yet in this series, it’s only part of the context divulged to the viewer, raising the question… do you believe Penny or not?

As the series unravels, it’s an uncomfortable but utterly compelling ride.

After the Party 8:30pm Sunday on ABC (all episodes on iview).

5 Responses

  1. I’ve only watched the first two episodes, but … my reaction to this is exactly the same as the reaction a “regular person” might have to a trashy reality series. It’s everything I hate in a TV show. I’m intrigued, appalled and confused by the events of the series. And I want more of it. I want answers. I need answers.

    I knew Robyn Malcolm had the chops, but good God she’s fabulous in this. And Peter Mullan is an instant reason to watch. Keen to see how it all pans out, because right now I have many more questions than answers. And I hate it.

  2. Yes,its a hard topic to watch but I was surprised at how much I changed my mind on what I was believing.Wow what an amazing performance by the multi faceted Robyn Malcolm-(Outrageous Fortune ,Upper Middle Bogan,Harrow).Is there anything she cant do?Her delivery of rawness and vulnerability mixed in with her steal beliefs are amazing to watch.Watch it all and drink it down – then sit on it and think?? mmmm – amazing!!!

  3. I get dejected when tv shows don’t live up to the hype …. For example, High country is wooden acting and story done before ….. but After The Party is outstanding…. Brilliant acting by the two leads and a subject difficult to tackle that makes this riveting. Don’t drip feed weekly on Sunday nights, binge over a week and feel the force of a brilliant series … I have watched two eps today and am hooked

    1. Thanks, Pete. I, too, was disappointed in High Country. It had a great cast, but it felt like it was trying too hard. The rain has started here in Sydney, so it is the perfect time to binge After The Parrty.

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