With the most unpredictable election just around the corner, innovative theatre company, The Lab Collective give us The Candidate. With the power, literally, in the audience’s hand, they choose what they want from this politician. Finally, we can have the perfect candidate. Directors, Joseph Thorpe and Natalie Scott discuss the “double edged sword” that is technology and politics within theatre.
Technology is developing faster than ever. Everyone is either swiping left or right, googling answers or tweeting thoughts. You cannot escape it and The Lab Collective have indulged in this as it connects the audience to the action. To get the answers that they want from the candidate, the audience, in an X Factor style, through an app, can text their votes or join the poll on the webpage. The votes are counted and then used by the performer to change the direction of his speech. Thorpe and Scott wanted to “push the boundaries” with this piece.
As exciting as new technology is, Thorpe says that “it is a double edged sword.” It allows a certain amount of engagement with the audience but in return “it sometimes feels that it distances the performer from the audience.” There is a “hunger” for technology and this means that theatre makers and artists need to keep up with it. He explains that “the problem can be the astronomical costs of working with these kinds of technology” but when they can find free apps it “can be a great way to explore technology in performance” which allows them to be creative and new skills can develop within the team.
The app sounds like it will attract the audience and Thorpe and Scott express how the political climate attracts them as theatre makers; “Politics is one giant arena– from the scripted, carefully chosen speeches and manicured responses – to the drama of dirty fighting and decisions that affect the public directly. Politics doesn’t just make us gasp and clap, it also devastates, changes lives, makes us hope and weep and incites fury and righteous indignation at the tricks and reveals at every turn. There are villains and heroes, and heroes who turn out to be villains in disguise, and constant sleight of hand. Like good performance, it keeps everyone on their toes and activates the spectator.” The world of politics and politicians is just one big show, so it’s only natural that politics have inspired theatre for centuries. With passion, Thorpe and Scott express that “Political performance has the power to unite the public, it can be incredibly empowering be part of an audience who are activated by something they feel passionate about or even something they despise, creating a drive for change and generating discourse and debate.”
With such intense themes, there are risks when creating such a politically driven piece of theatre as The Candidate. “We want to create balanced, thought provoking performance, which hands control to the audience to offer them informed choices; often this means stepping back from personal viewpoints and looking everything with a critical eye.” By doing this, Thorpe and Scott ensure that there was no bias or agenda within their show that was forced onto the audience.
Thorpe and Scott pride themselves in that they “have always placed the audience at the core” of their work. They continue to explain that the idea of the public not being fully engaged with the political climate was “frightening”. “We realised that we have become so intent on looking at and judging them, we have stopped looking at and talking to each other.” This inspired The Lab Collective to deconstruct the process of choosing “the person sitting next to the big red button” and they wanted to invite the public to “question the truth of what we accept from our potential leaders.”
The Candidate “focuses on the satisfaction on being part of a force for change”. The audience can see the impact of their choices in real time and “the satisfaction of seeing your vote count is exhilarating.” The piece highlights topics which are so relevant to the times and Thorpe and Scott do admit that it also highlights the “fallacy of politics”, but most importantly, the heart of it all; The Candidate shows the audience the power of their voice.
The Candidate is playing from 29 April at Theatre Delicatessen until 16 May 2015. For more information and tickets, go to their website.