It’s snowing in London and I’m off to a boxing match. Tonight is Fight Night. Joe Williams (Peter Grimwood) squares up to Ian ‘BAM BAM’ Bradshaw (Edward Linard). Only one fighter will leave victorious. But which one?
Exit Productions are an interactive events company. Their last production, Revolution, was a must-see during Vault Festival 2018 and winner of the Vault Festival Innovation Award. They operate where theatre and game meet. So if you’re ready to play along, then step up to the ring.
Immediately when you enter the performance area, there is an atmosphere of an underground fight club in the air. Dev J Danzig’s set design fits into the space as if it has always been there. The main room is filled with the boxing ring and small card tables. Leading off from that are the dressing rooms and medical office.
The audience is split into southside and northside. We meet the two contenders, their supporters, and witness the build-up to the fight. Along the way, the audience is encouraged to place bets on the winner and can win back chips by playing cards and completing a variety of tasks.
For me, Fight Night feels like a mixture of a choose-your-own-adventure story and an escape room. Never have I enjoyed a piece of theatre while feeling so much freedom, along with a heightened sense of responsibility. The audience can wander around freely, and you may become more involved in the proceedings than you had initially hoped you would.
The immersion is what this play is built on. Even the more hesitant individuals are swept up by Grimwood and Bradshaw’s personalities. I genuinely began to care about my boxer (I was team Joe Williams) and his entourage. Directors Joe Ball and Chris Neels manage to create a story of two flawed individuals with everything to lose and so much to gain.
Where the immersion is at its peak, the interactiveness is lacking. It seems a step is made in the right direction, but it’s not quite there yet. There is a lot of standing around and too many strands of the story playing out all at once. If you decide to detach yourself from the performance completely and sleuth around on your own, you might pick up all of them, but I wouldn’t recommend that. The fear of missing out can be strong, but it isn’t worth leaving the side of the fighter you’re rooting for.
To conclude: get in there! Move about, rummage through lockers and have a chat over a game of blackjack. I’m going to wear the Joe Williams badge I spent my chips on with pride. So, gather round, place your bets and let’s get ready to rumble.
Fight Night is playing at the VAULT Festival until 17 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.