Review: A Certain Value, Anna Rispoli/Martina Angelotti
2.0Overall Score

A Certain Value is a collaborative online piece, exploring the concept of sharing and mutualised practices. The play is organised similarly to a murder mystery party, where participants are cued to read lines by a script that looks more like an instruction manual. Despite being a fan of participatory theatre, I found the experience just as tedious as those same murder mystery parties. 

The play is researched by Anna Rispoli and Martina Angelotti. They spoke to different groups of people all throughout Europe who practise a collaborative way of living. The writing included the testimonies of residents of the Collectif 59 Saint Just (a squat in France); the Common Wallet (a group of artists sharing a bank account in Belgium); the inmates in the Prison for Women of Rennes and the children of the School Primaria. The piece has no strict narrative, instead emulating a panel discussion where members of each group discuss the benefits and drawbacks of collaborative living. The script is a little too long and clunky in its writing, leaving me feeling we reached no real conclusion.

I read the part of a member of the Common Wallet, who pool all their earnings to maintain a steady income while working as freelance artists. It is certainly very interesting to learn more about a way of life that is so alien to our individualistic, capitalist society in the UK. However, while our group celebrates how sharing money engenders trust, rather than suspicion of others, we see a total counter-argument to this. A group of female inmates lament how their shared living is through no choice of their own. In a surprisingly poignant moment, the readers join together to mime using the toilet, as ‘Queen’ describes this act as the worst aspect of living somewhere with no privacy.

Audience members (who pay for a festival ticket to attend) can volunteer to be script readers, meaning the entire play is executed by theatregoers, rather than trained performers. At times, I found this to be a clever way of literally acting out the themes of collaboration and trust so key to the play. However, it left me wondering if the work of the actor is now treated with such disregard that actors are now deemed utterly dispensable? In a discussion afterwards, fellow readers commented that hearing untrained actors speak the lines helped them believe they were witnessing a panel discussion of the real people interviewed. Yet, if we cannot trust the actor to convincingly deliver such lines, then what is the point in Theatre and the suspension of disbelief at all?

Having audience members read the entire production turned out to be little more than a gimmick and it was a shame that this distracted from the interesting topic of collaborative living at hand.

A Certain Value is playing online at the Take Me Somewhere festival until 29 May 2021. For more information and tickets, see Take Me Somewhere festival online.