We This Way is the ultimate theatrical experience for fans of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Seth Kriebel gently nudges his audience to choose A or B – blue or orange – and shape their collective experience. Will we go through this door, or that one? Perhaps open a suitcase? We This Way has at its centre a softly spoken storyteller with a marvellous ability to captivate a crowd and generate a realm of adventure in a dimly let lecture hall. Despite the quest, this is after all a feat of storytelling, with thousands of possible combinations to reach the ending.
The story loops and restarts in the manner of The Stanley Parable and, as it does so, the audience becomes aware of its power as a collective. People start to hold up their voters’ glowsticks strategically, glancing around the room to ensure that nobody has chosen an offending pathway. We cover as many routes as possible with determination, despite the promise of a conclusion fast disappearing. Often, Kriebel transports the story back to the start, to the extent where the first few lines feel pointless and I find myself begging for a checkpoint to be uncovered. Choose Your Own Adventure Stories are fun but equally desperately exasperating.
An impish charm emerges as individuals start to experiment with the voting system. This is when larger themes emerge in the operation of We This Way. Our vote may or may not contribute to the overall narrative. Playfully, some hold up two glowsticks, or refuse to vote, to see how this will affect the construction. Playfulness and play are always at work here, allowing for an escapism that isn’t present in traditional drama. Some – myself included – are privileged with extra glowsticks and an exclusive round of play. There’s a certain pride that comes of dragging your fellow listeners through a story of your choice.
Choice; the nagging doubt of whether we could have ever chosen differently never really goes away. We This Way toys with fate and determinism as much as it does democracy and play. We’re sent back to the beginning so many times that it’s easy to wonder whether the final conclusion was always planned by the narrator. Infuriating as much as it is amusing, We This Way is a game; the best fun at the Fringe.
We This Way is playing at Summerhall (venue 26) until 30 August (no performances on 18 or 25) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.