Interactive theatre specialists, The Lab Collective, are behind the production consisting of a two man cast, Omar Ibrahim and Matthew Flacks, who combine excellently with each other and with the audience throughout in an attempt to create and mould the perfect political candidate.
The audience enter and are asked, via text message, to vote on various matters. The results of which then appear on a big screen and the show develops accordingly, based on the results.
With a real general election at hand, it was interesting to see the first question asked being:
“Based on first impressions only, which of the following candidates would you like to see in power?”
At which point we see five silent and almost caricature performances of the different candidates, all played by Omar Ibrahim, our willing politician for the evening. Interesting perhaps, as many people when discussing their real election views over a pint in the pub this week will have probably formed their initial feelings of the candidates based on nothing more than that; gut feelings and first impressions. How many people have you overheard say something along the lines of “Miliband talks like a posh boy” or “Cameron doesn’t even know which football team he supports”. In truth, it really shouldn’t matter what our first impressions of politicians are, but it does and The Candidate goes on to explore why this is.
Nothing here is in the usual theatre format; there is no stage and no seating, there’s barely even any script. Instead the performance is shaped as we go along, with structured improvisation keeping things moving. The audience are encouraged to interact with their chosen candidate and ask him questions. We are then asked to vote on how confident we feel in his answers. Anonymous text voting here is key to the show’s success, as this allows the audience to respond honestly without fearing an inevitable backlash of follow up questions. The interaction of the performance is also unintrusive, encouraging those who want to participate to speak up, whilst also allowing the shy to hide away.
As the show progresses and our candidate begins to mould himself to the audience’s will, it becomes increasingly unsettling to learn that the candidate, backed by his ever present spin doctor, played by Flacks, will say and do practically anything to ensure the audience are confident in him.
The Candidate is thought provoking and certainly makes you question the transparency and effectiveness of the current British voting system. At times, the lack of a better system can leave the audience feeling a little deflated and it becomes quite difficult to see exactly what the message is meant to be. You can even find yourself questioning what the point in voting is at all? Perhaps then, that is The Candidate’s point, that the confusion and lack of transparency in modern politics can be deflating. Perhaps the reason this is the most exciting election in years is simply because people don’t have much faith in any of their candidates anymore? Regardless, The Candidate certainly does get the audience at least engaged in politics and surely that can’t be a bad thing.
The Candidate is on at Theatre Delicatessen until 16th May.