The term immersive is often found on marketing for shows that don’t warrant the description. It is so loosely applied nowadays, that it is a joy to be able to genuinely sit within a piece of theatre, not just as a witness to a scene but as a participant. Electric Eden is, without a doubt, immersive theatre. Set in a nightclub, our entry involves a band slapped on our wrists and army paint marked on our faces as we’re invited to grab a drink and sign up to join the protest. Tommy Eden, a local resident, has been unjustly killed, and the locals gather together to bring justice for the man who just wanted to sing. Combining scene snippets, poetry and a boogie on the dance floor, we are encouraged to take part and enjoy the music.
There is a real sense of relaxation within the club; those who want to join in do, those who don’t can sit out and watch. However, despite an attempt to fully immerse, the performers are not always proactively encouraging. The rules are not always clear: If they are chanting, should we join in? Can I just get up at any point and dance to the music? Where does the line cross between the actors doing their scenes and the audience being a part of the scenes? Thus, as immersive as the setting is, a fear of disrupting the performance does cause one to hold back slightly.
There are speeches from various members of the community, including the victim’s daughter, who is later offered £18,000 in exchange for taking the blame off of a corporate bully.
Whilst joining in with the performers on the dance floor is certainly entertaining, it becomes hard to fully connect with the matter at the core when it is not explored enough in enough depth to generate real care for the cause. The protest seems to be more about the music than the crime, with windows into conversations adding additional information, but not constructed firmly enough to provide a clear narrative.
Electric Eden is about community, family and bringing each other together through music, yet after an hour of being at the centre of the protest, there is not much more insight into the man at the heart of the play, despite the legacy that he leaves behind.
Electric Eden is playing Pleasance Pop-Up: The Club until August 29.