Inspired by the impact of Brexit and the politics surrounding what makes people vote the way they do, writers Jessica Bailey and Terri Donovan came up with a double bill of new works, presented by all female creative conglomerate Staging the Nation at Theatre N16 in Balham.
Directed by Tonje Wik Olaussen, the first segment of the doublebill presented an extract from Jessica Bailey’s new script Vote Revolt. Inspired by Paul Thompson’s play By Common Consent (1974), Vote Revolt is set in a dystopian version of England on the brink of deciding to Brexit or Bremain. Zooming in on a group of teens receiving their A-Level results, Vote Revolt aims to explore what happens when a teen who seemingly has it all decides that none of it really matters, and with a distinctly nihilist edge, turns to the side of the rebels.
Jessica Bailey’s script captures a relatable time in everyone’s live – young adulthood where everything is about to change and the air crackles with instability and hot-blooded youth. The cast captures the essence of their characters well, with Adam Parkinson in particular skillfully portraying an impulsive young man, a bit of a joker but surprisingly clear-headed in his ambition. In one scene, he even manages to deliver a believable tinge of madness that many actors aspire to eventually master. Tonje Wik Olaussen also shows off a bit of directorial inspiration here, such as when Arthur Velarde’s character begins to speak just as the vocals of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody play, greatly adding to the dramatic effect of the scene.
Despite being a brief extract, Vote Revolt is fiercely current and has some seriously interesting characters armed with a script that is brimming with potential. One could see Vote Revolt potentially succeeding as a timeless bold, youthful voice once fully developed , and we can only hope it manages to do so in the near future.
A Game of Chaos
Teri Donovan’s piece takes on a completely different slant from Vote Revolt. A Game of Chaos takes place in a sealed room where five cast members are to play an inspired game and ultimately decide whether they want to leave the room or stay after a vote. They are each randomly given a series of secret individual tasks and objectives to fulfill, while still adhering to quirky rules, such as having to maintain a minute of silence, or any music played must be from Queen’s greatest hits album, lest the space shrinks in size. At the end of 48 minutes (a countdown is projected on a screen behind the cast), the final decision must be made.
Although a little difficult to follow at first, A Game of Chaos is truly a unique theatre experience. It’s entertaining to watch the cast members attempt to foil each other’s plans and for the audience to figure out for themselves just which member is out to betray the others. Christopher Walthorne, for example, was tasked with collecting certain cast members’ shoes, while Anna Loren was only allowed to speak when a period of silence was declared. Adam Parkinson’s insistence on interrupting and playing the fool also heightened the entertainment value of the piece, and made for some inspired conflict amongst the cast.
One felt that the piece truly lived up to its name of A Game of Chaos due to how much was going on at any one point of time. A Game of Chaos does dip in pacing in certain parts, and at times gets repetitive, but thankfully does have enough unexpected moments to keep audience interest from waning. One feels that very little of their actions actually informed the audience of the reasons for their final decision to stay/leave, and the ultimate choice felt like an arbitrary one. A Game of Chaos leaves plenty of food for thought about our decision making process and the interactions with have with others, and works best if viewed as a social experiment rather than a straight up piece of theatre, and leaves you wondering just what factors drove the UK to the eventual Brexit decision.
Both Vote Revolt and A Game of Chaos felt incomplete and would certainly benefit from more tightening and development. But for now, both pieces offer a glimpse into the creative gears that drive Staging the Nation, and they’re certainly promising ones that we hope we’ll continue to see in future.
Photo Credit: Staging the Nation Facebook
Performance attended on 26/5/17
Vote Revolt+A Game of Chaos plays at Theatre N16 (77 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9HD) on 26 and 27 May. Tickets available here