by Alexander Devriendt and the cast.
Unicorn Theatre (Clore Theatre) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 3 May 2015.
11am 21 Apr, 1 May.
2pm 22 25, 26, 30 Apr, 2, 3 May.
7.30pm 22-25, 28-30 Apr.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 April.
Election and selection taken for a revealing ride.
A bare stage, hanging microphone and nattily-attired announcer all suggest a boxing-match, but the punches in this show from Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed are aimed at rickety democratic procedures. Seemingly factual information is skewed or blurred, made manipulative and misleading. Fight Night gives the chance to consider the jerry-building which often passes for sound construction in surveying public opinion.
Five contestants stake their claim for our vote, based on questions from Master of Ceremonies Angelo (the performers use their own first names). At first they speak quite freely, describing themselves and the kind of person likely to support them. They are selling themselves, rather than any idea or policy. Audience members vote confidentially by hand-held devices – taking on trust that the voting numbers and percentages appearing on screen record actual outcomes.
Questions become increasingly restrictive. Audience members are asked their own opinions: which of several words they find most objectionable, whether they are more racist, sexist etc. The question-setter becomes the agenda-setter too. Candidates are eliminated, sometimes on unexpected criteria and combinations of voting outcomes. The way raw data are used determines the outcome.
The five separate characters, their individuality reflected in what they said and their manner of addressing the audience, end reduced in number, much of their individuality slugged out of them. Even the MC has been removed. So, who is responsible?
Along the way, the often innocuous-seeming questions audience members have been asked about themselves: age, whether they’re male or female, income and so on, come back as an aggregate of most populated categories, creating an amalgam that’s like no-one at all: the typical as the non-existent.
It’s a fascinating process, but it makes no effort to explain its own significance. For those used to statistics and surveys the point is made by the calm manner and submission to an agenda that goes nowhere with much meaning. It shows how democratic processes can be used to subvert, or bypass, democracy.
Some in an audience of 14+ may well find such matters are less apparent. Even so, the interactivity and candidates’ vicissitudes should hold attention and stir some unease.
Performers: Angelo Tjissens, Maria Dafneros, Gilles De Schryver, Roman Vaculik, Michai Geyzen, Suzanne Grotenhuis.
Director: Alexander Devriendt.
Designer: Sophie De Somere.
Lighting: Lilith Tremmery.
Composers: Cameron Goodall, David Heinrich.
Technicians: Babette Poncelet, Jon Barron.
Graphics: Nick Mattan.