Tim Price‘s Demos experience is certainly unique. Upon entry into the theatre space, you are expected to stand on the stage and partake in a warm-up exercise, after which you are handed a script. If you have lines in yours, you are part of the show. If you don’t, you are not allowed to take part. 99% of the audience makes up the cast. And then the show begins.
Director Hamish Pirie’s production is split into three parts. First, it’s inspired by an actual AGM for the Occupy Movement, where they are discussing their upcoming court case and trying to resolve issues surrounding it. It ends with an uplifting series of statements about what the movement hopes to achieve. Second are the Prime Minister’s questions, where the audience is split into parliament and the opposition. What side each person is on depends entirely on which script is handed out. Finally, a discussion with the production team takes place about what the play is about and what it has inspired.
The problem with a production such as this is that audience members are so focused on their upcoming line, they miss what is being said prior to it. With the added pressure of being fundamentally involved, it’s easy to miss everything else. The other problem is the sheer length of the production. While it’s billed at approximately two hours long, it ran over by thirty minutes – and there was no interval. It’s such a long time to endure when very little is actually happening. It can also be very awkward if someone has issues with public speaking, as while they say audience participation is optional, there’s a feeling of peer pressure to get involved, whether it’s really there or not. It may have been more beneficial if more information was provided prior to buying a ticket as to what is actually expected of the audience.
While it’s not a terrible show, it’s certainly not for everyone. The positive is that most people were happy to get involved, some more than others. People left the theatre talking about the issues, and it sparked proper political debate in the bar afterwards, which is obviously the point. But during the show, it’s someone else’s political debate. You are told what political party to go into, and are told what to say – even if you don’t actually agree. ‘This is what democracy looks like’ is the tagline for the show. Ironic, really.
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