Rob Drummond is on a democratic mission. Part game-show, part-memoir, Drummond’s latest experimental work – The Majority – is founded in truth “more or less” as he explains how he came to be arrested in Aberdeen for punching a far-right protester who was against welcoming Syrian refugees.
From this starting point the playwright, director and performer behind 2010’s Bullet Catch (where he took on the life-threatening bullet catching trick even Houdini shied away from), takes you on an ethical rollercoaster. Armed with voting pads the audience is given control over the show, voting to identify what part of society they fit into – 98 per cent liberal, and 97 per cent white on press night – and on what actions Drummond takes during the 90-minute performance.
The questions vary in seriousness. Will the audience let in latecomers? (Yes) Do they want to leave the EU? (Yes) Do they believe in absolute free speech? (No) Increasingly serious, Drummond poses questions that lie at the heart of human existence, and this is successful in its aim. You feel implicated.
There are many threads to the piece, namely the Scottish Independence referendum, Brexit, and most importantly Drummond’s burgeoning relationship with a man named Eric Ferguson who led Drummond’s evolution from someone who didn’t even vote in the Scottish referendum to someone who engages in political violence.
As he takes you on a personal journey through the political and philosophical landscape, Drummond hits on subjects that are all too pertinent. With the recent white supremacist march (and counter protest) in Charlottesville, Virginia and a shocking rise in far-right violence, the questions that Drummond asks you – The Majority – are thought-provoking and could have the potential to leave you reeling. However, what perhaps prevents this is the lack of direct reference to those all too recent events. For a show that revels in the bespoke, billed as different every night, the absence of Charlottesville proves haunting.
That said Jemima Robinson’s set is astounding. Recalling daytime TV game-shows, it brings an air of dystopia to the proposition that is both disconcerting and strangely effective, and most importantly provides Drummond with the ideal space to bring his theatrical democracy to life.
Quirky and far from boring, The Majority is a fine piece of interactive work. Yet as Drummond leaves you with the question of whether it is right to ever “abuse someone who has a different opinion to you” (12 per cent yes, The Majority no) there is a sense that voting in this way is all too binary. As he himself admits as he invites the audience to share a drink and debate with him in the bar: “Total agreement is the death of conversation.”
The Majority plays National Theatre until August 28.
Photo: Ellie Kurttz