Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Fun and games and terrifying taters

I've always been of the opinion that there should be something to actually 'do' at parties. This is partly why I like fancy dress and themed parties so much. Firstly everyone gets to have a good old laugh at everyone else's get-up (ok, you can do that at normal parties too, but you have to do it quietly in the corner). This in itself bonds a possibly otherwise unfamiliar group of people. Throw a couple of optional activities into the proceedings and even the quietest guest instantly has something to talk about.

At my Mad Hatter's tea party in the summer I devised a couple of little games, which took neither skill, dexterity or talent. The first - 'Lewis Carroll limericks'  is quite self explanatory - write a five line nonsense rhyme in limerick format. To help, I made little cards and wrote the first lines of the limericks - for instance "There was a young man named Hatter". There were about 8 different limerick beginnings to choose from, all using characters from Alice in Wonderland. I was amazed at how quickly the little stack of cards went down as people that didn't even know they could write poetry began to pen all sorts of ludicrous verses. The winning entry won a large cucumber, but I must admit, my judging was rather biased as the entrant had written a limerick which included my cat. The second game at the tea party was the 'Draw a Jabberwocky' contest. Again, I made playing card sized cards, with a space inside a gothic frame for people to draw their interpretation of a Jabberwocky. I stuck them all onto a board, on which I had printed a heading inscribed 'Jabberwocky Gallery'. The portraits made fascinating viewing, and the winner won a tin of potted lobster.

At the Halloween party I adapted similar games for the season. The first, simply a caption contest featuring images from horror films, vintage and modern. The second game was more creative. In an ideal world I would have had everyone carve a pumpkin, but space, time and a fridge already overflowing with pumpkin flesh (more about that later) meant this was not feasible. Inspired by something I read recently about the yearly Humboldt Decorated Potato Competition, and also a dash of the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I set about to construct a 'Terrifying Tater Gallery'. The idea was to make the most gruesomely featured potato head, insert a toothpick into the base and then insert this into a polystyrene display gallery, that I had constructed and hot glued together, then painted black. The addition of a tattered fabric backdrop, and a scroll-shaped sign, completed the stage for the hideous heads.

I was amazed and delighted when I returned to the little gallery some way into the party to discover the creations that had gathered! My intentions were for the potatoes to have their ghoulish features drawn on using a pot of magic markers I had left for the purpose. But an inadvertently discarded pumpkin carving tool had found it's way into use, and some of the potatoes had chiselled features, while none at all had drawn on faces! The cocktail sticks, intended to simply be used to stand the creations up, had been employed in freakishly creative ways.

It's a monster mash! The Terrifying Tater Gallery. First prize (bottom left) fittingly won a packet of potato crisps. Ingenious but sharp little limbs were assembled from toothpicks, hats from spent tealight holders, and one sticky offering I am presuming had been doused with toffee sauce from the buffet table.

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