Wednesday, 7 July 2010
That's the invitation from Metis Arts in their new production 3rd Ring Out. Rehearsing The Future by Zoe Svendsen and Simon Daw.
Members of the audience sit in a container, next to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and two actors keep the audience updated with news about how the climate crisis is developing. Each audience member has to take a number of decisions (there are green, blue and red buttons to press) and these decisions affect the way the story unfolds. There's no conferring.
On the screens there's an impressive stream of updates on the situation outside, via news bulletins, videocam interviews, and tweets. In front of us, there's a map of the area for which we're responsible (see pic). This is the area immediately outside the container. One of the remarkable things about 3rd Ring Out is that there have been separate scenarios designed for the production as it has toured locations in Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich, Newcastle and London.
In taking on this subject, Svendsen and Daw have set themselves three big challenges. One is to dramatise the subject of climate change. The second is to combine, in a realistic way, digital technology with live performance. The third is to use the audience as participants. There's a lot going on there.
The two performers, Pradeep Jey and Sarah Belcher, deftly steer the audience through the disaster scenario as it develops and the clever use of a range of media tools brings home the grim variety of climate impacts - literally home for the local members of the audience: flooding, food shortages, fires, civil unrest, refugees. But our response is double-edged. Since this is a piece of theatre we love it when the news gets really bad - it's more entertaining. The sparkiness of the cast's delivery also ensured that more nuanced responses to the questions raised had to wait till the show was over.
If Svendsen and Daw develop this approach, which I hope they do, because what they've achieved shows how rich the possibilities are, it would be fascinating to experience another scenario that had a very tight focus, followed a single issue perhaps, drew out the complications involved, empowered members of the audience with the ability to negotiate, and built to one key decision.
Easy enough to suggest, of course, and very hard to achieve. But one of the pleasures of 3rd Ring Out was imagining how much further they could take this kind of audience involvement.
3rd Ring Out is a Tipping Point commission.
Lyn Gardner's review in the Guardian (***), followed by 12 comments that range from 'an absolutely unique experience' and 'incredibly inventive' to 'I wanted the play to offer more solutions'.