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Remote in West Euston at Camden People’s Theatre is about making choices like this. The decisions the audience make range from the small things (clothes to wear, names to have, places to go) about a woman’s life in the future, to the big things (keep the fun going, sack someone, save the world.) As those choices suggest, things escalate rather quickly part way through this one-act-er, from imaginary near future occurrences to far-fetched far-future potentialities. We jump from a few years ahead to nearly a century in the future.
You – the audience that is, at Camden People’s Theatre – are the “live thinking” protagonist of Remote. She is someone like us. With white cards, you participate in the options given by Gemma (Gemma Brockis) and Tom (Tom Lyall), our friendly actors of “Remote” (“all the internets”) who are beamed in from Remote HQ – you’d be forgiven for thinking these actors were actually there with you in the theatre. White card up is the first option. No card up is the second option. You cannot abstain or spoil your ballot paper (as such). With this, I think, Coney intends to highlight the politics of choice, the limits of free will and the feeling of being implicated in everything that happens. I liked that feeling. It’s a theatrical and communal choose-your-own-adventure story.
Each choice “tunes” the algorithm of the story until it reaches a point where Gemma and Tom are making decisions for you, based on previous selections. The levels of power awarded to individual audience members change too. I was one of the powerful ones for a bit. Afterwards, some fellow audience members thought the elite who were selected (as I was) were plants – actors. But we weren’t, I can assure you. And so eventually there is a big decision to make: it’s about the freedom of choice and the safety of the planet, but I won’t spoil the ending.
How you experience this show is significantly dictated by where you choose to sit, who you decide to go with and how well you respond to peer-pressure. Because if you’re right at the front, you can’t see what everyone else is deciding but you are aware that everyone else could be judging you. And if you sit right at the back you may well be swayed by crowd mentality. It’s cool how this kind of theatre highlights liveness.
This isn’t a new format for the theatrical realm, and it possibly has been done better. But I liked the technological and environmental themes, Brockis and Lyall brilliantly effect the nonchalant soothing tone of an automated voice, and I did want to keep choosing. There were only a few times when my laziness kept me from raising my card (I’ll admit it’s really tempting, after a long day, not to raise your arm and instead take the default option…). The scripting by Tassos Stevens, which is ingeniously managed with Twine software on iPads for Gemma and Tom to read from, is smooth and without glitches. The electro-soothing background tunes, designed by Kieran Lucas, are unobtrusive and choice “selection” sounds are a neat way for us to register what choice has been made by the collective.
So if you want to take part in an imaginarium of hoverboards and uber and all the internets, and you like a hefty bit of audience participation, this is the play for you.
Remote is playing at the Camden People’s Theatre until 30 April. For more information and tickets, see the Camden People’s Theatre website. Photo: Richard Lakos